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Local farmer takes a ‘dietary requirements’ approach to soil health

An Elie-area farm family didn’t know exactly what they were in for when they signed up for a short course on ‘nutrition farming’ a couple of years back.

But the Boerschs, who farm a 5,000-acre commercial grain farm here, figured there had to be something to it.

Alex Boersch, who’d left his grain trading career in Toronto and returned to Manitoba to start farming with his parents, had heard farmers he knew in Ontario claiming the approach was a game changer. He convinced his father to enrol with him for the four-day course — which is coming back to Manitoba this upcoming week — to see what they could learn from it.

They were converting part of their farm to organic, and looking for ways to improve soil health, reduce risk and keep up farm profitability, says Boersch.

They came away from the course convinced there was real potential in the approach.

“Once we took this course it kind of changed our entire outlook on how we were going to farm going forward, too, both on the conventional side and the organic side,” he said.

[AUDIO CLIP: Alex Boersch on ‘nutrition farming’]

‘Nutrition farming’ is taught around the world by internationally acclaimed soil health pioneers Graeme Sait and Joel Williams and covers a wide range of strategies for managing soil fertility, but places particular emphasis on feeding the soil’s biological activity.

Alex now talks about nutrition farming the way a dietitian would speak of healthy eating, and how human health is shortchanged by eating haphazardly or overly relying on processed foods.

On their farm they now conduct tissue tests, for example, to check plants’ sugar levels, to see what the mineral deficiencies are, in order to address this in the short term over the leaf, and, in the longer term, figure out what may be interfering with plants’ uptake of nutrients in the soil. They’ve also found a more efficient way to use nitrogen and seen significant yield response.

Alex Boersch was interviewed by the Manitoba Co-operator about using the principles and methodologies of nutrition farming earlier this month. Watch for a story in an upcoming issue of the Manitoba Co-operator.

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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