Soil health and crop diversity


Source: Alberta Agriculture and Forestry

Research by CARA is documenting how adding pulses and crop mixes into rotation could impact soil health.

This 4 year project, which started north east of Oyen this year, is comparing several annual crop mixes – that all include pulse crops – and individual annual crop rotations in side-by-side comparisons.

“Most producers recognize the benefits to soil fertility by incorporating pulses into crop rotations,” explains Dianne Westerlund, manager and forage agrologist at Chinook Applied Research Association (CARA).

She says that anecdotal reports have suggested using different crop mixes – with pulses – during the fallow year improves various soil characteristics and decreases the need for chemical use on subsequent crops.

“This project will document the impact of crop diversity on soil carbon, compaction, respiration, infiltration and biological populations from various cropping practices.”

The trial consists of 14 rotations grown each year of the project. Those rotations include peas, canola, lentils, wheat and 4 cocktail cover crop (CCC) mixes:

  • CCC Mix 1 – peas, oats, triticale, tillage radish, phacelia
  • CCC Mix 2 –  lentils, oats, triticale, tillage radish, phacelia
  • CCC Mix 3 – hairy vetch, oats, triticale, tillage radish, phacelia
  • CCC Mix 4 – peas/lentils/fababeans, triticale, oats

During this first year of the trial, the 14 rotations include the 4 crop mixes, peas, lentils and wheat. The forage yield and nutrient quality will be measured on the mixes before they are mowed or rolled down. The grain yield will be measured on the crop treatments, and soil samples will be collected from each plot following harvest.

Next year, the 14 rotations include canola, wheat, peas and a chemical fallow.

The research will be complete following the 2023 growing season. Westerlund says that the final report should help local producers to make sound decisions with their soil and crop management strategies.

Funding for this project was provided in part through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership under the Adapting Innovative Solutions in Agriculture Program. In Alberta, the Canadian Agricultural Partnership represents a federal-provincial investment of $406 million in strategic programs and initiatives for the agricultural sector. Additional funding for this project was provided by the Alberta Pulse Growers.

Image of Canadian Agricultural Partnership logo, Alberta logo and Canada logo


For more information about this research, connect with CARA:

Phone: 403-664-3777

For more information about the Canadian Agricultural Partnership:

Phone: 310-FARM (3276)

For media inquiries about this article, call Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s media line:

Phone: 780-422-1005