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Phosphorus Depletion An Ongoing Concern

The excess moisture that has plagued Manitoba’s Interlake forced Bragi Simundsson to cut back on his organic operation last year. “If you can’t cultivate for over a year, you’re pretty much beat trying to be organic,” says Simundsson, who had as many as six quarters of his 2,000-acre mixed grain farm near Arborg certified.

Organic farming continues to intrigue this century-farm owner who certified his first quarter in 1993.

Converting to organic requires this farmer to change how he thinks about farming. And what seems like obvious solutions to problems such as phosphorus depletion remain out of reach.

“The biggest long-term problem is just keeping enough phosphate in the system, especially when we use alfalfa in the rotation,” he said.

He’s tried hard-and soft-rock phosphates, but finds the higher pH of his soil particularly challenging.

“I’ve contacted all the organic researchers that I know in Canada in the last couple of years just to pick their brains and none have any solution to replace the phosphate, except an outside manure source.”

One is itchingly close by. But the nutrient source from a nearby hog barn, which would otherwise be permitted by the organic regulation is off limits; a clause in the regulation disallows the use of this manure source because the sows producing it can’t turn around in their stalls.

“If I had that source available, I could keep that land in production, probably in perpetuity,” he adds.



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