A staggering 80% of contaminants found in water bodies trace back to on-farm activities, according to government figures. Similar concerns in the United Kingdom have meant the early adoption of biobeds, contained areas specifically intended to capture and degrade pesticides.
“We can take a lot from the existing models in Europe, but we have to modify them for our climate,” said Larry Braul, Water Quality Engineer for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). “Things like torrential rainfalls and freezing temperatures affect the performance of the microbes in the beds, so we are looking at the best way to deal with those factors unique to our geography.”
AAFC has been researching biobed systems since 2008, and though they’ve seen encouraging results, biobeds in Canada aren’t without their challenges.
“Our cold climate will have an enormous impact on the function of the biobed. A raise in temperature of ten degrees can double the activity of microbes, so it’s important for us to understand the complete picture,” said Braul.
Braul, along with Claudia Sheedy, Research Scientist, AAFC Lethbridge, probed one biobed in Outlook, Saskatchewan and found it was frozen eight centimetres down, even into May.
The research now will look into ways to keep the beds warmer as well as measuring and learning more about the relationship between microbes and pesticide degradation.
This fall, three more biobeds will be installed in Western Canada.
If you can’t see the audio interview with Larry Braul, you can find it on Soundcloud.