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By Moira Baird

Researchers are starting from the ground up to understand Newfoundland’s boreal forest soil and how farmers can turn that land into productive agricultural acreage.

Dr. Adrian Unc, associate professor of soil science with Grenfell Campus’s Boreal Ecosystem Research Initiative and its Environmental Science Program, says without a clear understanding of the fertility of the island’s unique boreal forest soil, farmers won’t be able to efficiently fertilize their land.

He’s working with researchers at Memorial, graduate students in Grenfell’s new master of science program in boreal ecosystems and agricultural sciences, as well as the provincial and federal governments.

“Everything starts and ends with the soil.” — Dr. Adrian Unc

With every soil sample, Dr. Unc is finding the soil systems are more complex than he expected. In other parts of the world, efforts to ensure soil fertility target the top four to 10 inches of earth However, using these traditional management systems might not work for Newfoundland’s unique soil.

It’s still a working hypothesis, but Dr. Unc believes deeper layers of soil have a greater impact on the biology and biochemistry of the top layer. So, managing only the top layer of soil may not work here—meaning researchers need to develop new management practices specifically for Newfoundland that account for the particularities of soil layers a little deeper into the earth.

Dr. Adrian Unc is trying to better understand Newfoundland’s boreal forest soil and how farmers can turn that land into productive agricultural acreage.
Dr. Adrian Unc is trying to better understand Newfoundland’s boreal forest soil and how farmers can turn that land into productive agricultural acreage.
Photo: David Howells

And the work doesn’t end there.

The province also faces the challenge of developing infrastructure to enable the smooth transfer of information among agriculture researchers in both the provincial government and Memorial.

Dr. Unc and his team are trying to identify the best research while at the same time create an infrastructure that does not exist—yet.

Funder: Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador

Special thanksNagels Hill Agri-Products

This is the first in a new collection of research profiles. Beginning March 8, there will be a new research profile published every two weeks, celebrating the contributions of Memorial researchers. Be sure to check back for future profiles.


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