Alberta Beet Growers Scrutinize Environmental Stewardship

Published online: Sep 24, 2020 News Dori Modney
Viewed 129 time(s)
Source: Lethbridge News Now

Alberta Sugar Beet Growers (ASBG) have joined the list of agricultural producers studying the environmental impact of their growing and harvesting process.

The numbers associated with sugar beet production are what bring the need for environmental study into focus.

An average year of production, would see about 28,000 acres of sugarbeets grown in southern Alberta, providing more than 800,000 tonnes of beets. The harvested beets are hauled to seven area receiving stations – or piling grounds – where trucks can wait for up to three hours to unload their cargo.

Melody Garner-Skiba, executive director of ASBG, explains they are looking for ways to mitigate impacts on the environment.

According to ASBG, Phase 1 of the research project, “Reducing the Impact of Sugar Beet Production and Irrigation on Climate Change”, began during the sugarbeet harvest in the fall of 2018. Researchers collected data from the traffic at the piling grounds. From there, the assessment process was to identify ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fuel and energy consumption.

Researchers have wrapped up two years of collecting data and monitoring nine participating farms. They determined green house gas emissions and climate change impacts, including water usage from an irrigation angle during the growing season.

During this phase of the project, Alberta Canola and Alberta Potato Growers were brought in as partners. The reason? Garner-Skiba notes Sugar beets don’t grow in isolation, as it’s a rotation crop, that’s only grown one in 4 years.

“We thought it was important to also bring those other rotational crops in on this project because they will have an impact as well. Probably 30 percent of Alberta sugarbeet growers, if not 40 percent, also grow potatoes. If they’re not growing potatoes, they’re growing canola or they’re growing pulses. We’re all very interconnected.”

The next phases of the project, will see the team develop best management practices and recommendations from the assessments and data collection completed earlier. From there, project recommendations will implemented by sugar beet farmers.

Garner-Skiba commented that producers have been anxious to see the results and potential solutions.

“If we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from trucks idling or waiting to drop their sugar beets at receiving stations, that also equates to better profitability because we are being more efficient.”

The governments of Canada and Alberta have provided funding for the project through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership under the Environmental Stewardship and Climate Change – Group Program. In Alberta, the Canadian Agricultural Partnership represents a federal-provincial investment of $406 million in strategic programs and initiatives for the agricultural sector.