As part of the McCain Foods Ltd. project ‘Farms of the Future’ that aims to showcase how regenerative farming practices and the latest agricultural technology and innovations can be implemented at scale, research at the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics will use DNA metabarcoding to identify the practices that foster biological communities and enhance soil productivity.
Complex communities of bacteria, fungi, and invertebrates are known to be involved in the preservation and enhancement of soil fertility, nutrient cycling, crop productivity, and carbon sequestration, but the details have been lacking. This knowledge gap can now be addressed through new methods, such as DNA metabarcoding, which make it possible to monitor the diversity and dynamics of entire soil communities.
McCain Foods Ltd., a global producer of potato products, launched its ‘Farms of the Future’ project in early 2020 to demonstrate the scalability and economic viability of regenerative farming practices that protect both soil health and biodiversity, factors key to the sustainability of potato production. A 400-acre farm in New Brunswick was acquired to test conventional farming practices against regenerative methods such as green manure, rotational livestock grazing, and strip cropping.
By using metabarcoding to quantify the impacts of different agricultural practices on soil organisms, research at CBG will help to acquire comprehensive baseline data on soil biodiversity and identify practices that foster biological communities that enhance soil productivity. This research will have broad impacts on the long-term vitality of Canada’s agricultural sector by advancing understanding of factors influencing soil biodiversity and the practices that regenerate and protect it.