Wetland stewardship through targeted water monitoring

Shannon Sereda, Senior Manager, Government Relations and Policy | Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions

Members of Alberta’s crop sector have embarked on a novel three-year project — the first of its kind in Canada to focus on stewardship practices to mitigate movement of pesticides into wetlands and other waterbodies. Advancing our scientific understanding in this area will allow farmers to apply innovative and effective mitigative practices including, but not limited to, the use of spray buffer zones and vegetative buffers, and filter strips to minimize impacts on aquatic ecosystems. Further, this project will provide invaluable and novel data to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) to inform regulatory decisions – currently the scientific data available is limited in this area related to use and application patterns in Western Canada.

The Alberta Wheat Commission is administering the project in conjunction with seven crop commissions including Alberta Barley, Alberta Beekeepers, Alberta Canola, Alberta Pulse Growers, Alberta Potatoes and the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers. The project has engaged Millennium EMS Solutions (MEMS), a third-party applied research and environmental monitoring organization, to build a program with sample timing that coincides with the PMRA’s date needs to capture peak concentrations aligned with water movement and critical receptor lifecycles.

Previous water monitoring data collection has not considered PMRA needs in conducting risk assessment and chemistry re-evaluations, that has led to discarding of data associated with decisions and retention of critical crop protection tools. This project will aim to evaluate the effectiveness of stewardship adjacent to riparian zones and wetlands to further inform regulatory decisions and knowledge transfer to producers and manufacturers. In addition to sampling data, farmer participants are also asked to report on usage patterns and management practices.

The project will capture peak exposures of 62 priority compounds (including glyphosate) that have been identified as priority chemistries for producers of barley, potatoes, canola, pulses, sugar beets and wheat. These chemistries were evaluated based on the PMRA’s five-year workplan related to upcoming re-evaluations. Over the next three years, samples will be collected in 10 wetlands and 10 tributaries a total of nine times. This is done in cooperation with our farmer members, on wetlands within cropping areas and their tributaries in southern Alberta that are home to intensive agriculture and lower rainfall. This helps to provide models that can be safely applied more broadly, given a higher probability of detection.

Year one of data collection is well underway, despite setbacks related to unprecedented heat and drought conditions in the provinces which has seen a reduction in wetland volumes recorded. To date, five of the sampling events have been completed for this year. The project has received a broad range of support and multiple contributions including $750,000 from Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR), partial funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership and a combined investment of $1.5 million over the three years from crop commissions and crop life companies Bayer Crop Science Canada, Syngenta and BASF. The crop commissions are also working with the Government of Alberta’s Tributary Monitoring Network stations to augment the data.

The hope for the project is that it will continue beyond the three years and set the foundation for a national water monitoring program under the Canada Water Agency that has been tasked with developing a program of this nature while still in formation.

For further information please contact Shannon Sereda, senior manager, government relations and policy at ssereda@albertawheatbarely.com.