Alberta soil health: a metagenomic and metatranscriptomic assessment of benchmark agricultural soils

Project Details

Status: Completed
Investment: $412,600
Commodity: Soil
Organization: University of Alberta
Investigator: Brian Lanoil

Declining soil health is a long-term problem that is exacerbated by poor agricultural practices, costing Canadian farmers an estimated over $3B per year.

Why is this research important for Alberta ag?

Soil health is central to sustainable and responsible agriculture and is critical for Alberta agriculture's enhanced productivity, profitability, and competitiveness. Microorganisms are central to soil carbon processing and nutrient utilization, yet microbial communities have been understudied in assessments of soil health.

Leveraging prior funding to expand this work into metagenomic and metatranscriptomic analysis, this research wil examine microbial community composition, genetic potential, and gene expression in benchmark sites across Alberta and relate it to soil health and agricultural practices such as tillage, fertilizations, pesticide usage, and crop type.

The goal is to develop a better understanding of the linkages between soil health, soil microbiology function, and Alberta agricultural practices.

What benefits can producers expect from this research?

While soil health is essential, the term "soil health" is poorly defined and difficult to quantify. This project looks to examine soil microbial communities to develop a metric of soil health by focusing on soils from benchmark agricultural sites around Alberta.

Data integration with the DASH and DIRTS systems will both increase the opportunity to identify appropriate soil health metrics based on soil microbial parameters and increase uptake of recommended practices.

How will these research findings reach producers on-farm?

Findings will be presented at regional, national, and international scientific conferences, as well as published in peer reviewed articles. Outreach to the Alberta ag industry will be done through social media, regional producer meetings, summary publications for producers, and through the DASH and DIRTS systems.

Funded in part by the Government of Canada under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.