The Seine Rat Roseau Watershed District is partnering with the Eastern Prairie Living Labs initiative to bring researchers and producers together to develop, test and monitor innovative agricultural practices and technologies in a real-world context. The Main Drain sub-watershed (Located just south of Dominion City) is one of only four sub-watersheds in Manitoba to be selected for this program. In this area, producers are already partnering with researchers to find practical on-farm solutions that will address climate change, water contamination, soil and water conservation and biodiversity.
The first year of Eastern Prairie Living Labs (EPLL) in the Main Drain Watershed was a whirlwind of information sharing and solidifying the importance of BMPS already gaining popularity in the area. A full day presentation in Rosa by Gabe Brown, Ray Archuleta and Michael Thiele on soil health and regenerative agriculture drew over 130 participants from across the Seine Rat Roseau Watershed District (SRRWD) and sparked conversations amongst producers about the importance of innovation and individualized planning on their farms. Complementary workshops held in Ridgeville on pollinators, biodiversity and predation have drawn an increase in interest in the conversion of underproductive annual crop lands to perennial pastures. This complements existing SRRWD livestock management, alternative land use and GROW (GRowing Outcomes in Watersheds) programming providing opportunities for producers both within the EPLL framework and beyond. Several landowners have also been able to engage directly through one on one sessions to start individualized on-farm planning for their operation.
Over the course of the last year, Main Drain producers have established nine alternative watering systems and fence off over a dozen dugouts and riparian areas resulting in the exclusion of over 1100 head of cattle from local waterways. Several more watering systems and fencing projects have been established just outside the Main Drain watershed because, as we know, producers talk and good programming is good programming! By highlighting the positive impact that keeping cattle out of waterways has on water quality, soil health and biodiversity enhancement the Main Drain Eastern Prairie Living Labs initiative is already making an impact beyond the boundaries of the watershed.
As year two is underway, partnerships with producers have already begun. Water quality and soil sampling will be occurring across the watershed to help paint a picture of the effect these BMPs are having on our waterways and soil. Research scientists involved in the EPLL initiative are working directly with producers to monitor tile drains and to provide data on the effect of innovative cropping methods. A pasture based retention structure with complementary alternative watering system, livestock crossing and riparian area fencing is already in the works as are several independent off site watering systems and perennial plantings. Through partnerships forged through the Eastern Prairie Living Labs initiative, Seine Rat Roseau Watershed has been able to directly connect innovative landowners with the researchers and specialists who can best advise them and to the funding they need to venture into uncharted BMP territory. Landowners are eager to see EPLL expand into their varied areas of interest and to work with researchers to gain valuable insight into how BMPs can be tailored to the unique needs of the Main Drain Watershed and its producers.