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NFL Canada Sponsors Special Award at 2021 Canada Wide Science Virtual Fair

The show must go on! This year’s Canada Wide Science Fair went ahead as scheduled but in a virtual format. Once again, NFL Canada sponsored a special award for an outstanding project related to plant nutrients, plants, and soil science. Congratulations to all participants this year, it was indeed a much different format to prepare and present. All students took the new design like pros! We enjoyed attending the virtual fair, judging, and hosting a booth at the virtual STEM event.

Please met Alex Lea, who is from the Lakes Districts in British Columbia. Alex is a grade nine student at Lake District Secondary School, and Alex also attends EBUS Academy. The project was called Soil Remineralization - Increasing Nutrient Levels and Bio-Mass in Pasture Grasses. It focused on the nutrients and health of pasture grasses and soils. We asked Alex to provide an overview of the project and future work for the experiment.

Project Description

To receive the recommended nutrients, my families horses are fed mineral blocks. I wanted to see if adding minerals directly to the soils would boost nutrient levels in the pasture grasses. This would eliminate the need to purchase mineral blocks.I tested to see if the addition of Wood Ash or Rock Dust to pasture soils would increase nutrient levels in the grasses. I grew grasses in a variety of soil types, processed each sample at the UNBC laboratories to analyze for pH levels, bio-mass and nutrient levels. I discovered that both Rock Dust and Wood Ash improved nutrient levels. In the open environment, they did not preform as they did in a controlled environment. Both increased bio-mass, though Wood Ash increased at a higher rate. These findings can be used to reclaim overworked farm soils and soils in harsh environments. This can also help increase food production in third-world countries.

Why did you want to explore this topic?

I have owned horses and competed in equestrian events since I was 5 years old. My family recently moved to an area that was known to be deficient in minerals, specifically Selenium. This requires us to feed mineral blocks to our horses to ensure they receive the nutrients that are essential to their health. I wanted to see if adding similar minerals to those found in mineral blocks to the soils would increase nutrient levels in our pasture grasses. This would reduce the need for buying mineral blocks for the animals. If there was also increased biomass in the treated soils, the pasture would then also offer more available nutrients for the animals.

Do you have any future plans to expand this project?

I would use a higher additive application rate - between 3000-5000kg per Hectare.

Mixing of the soil and additive in the open environment testing.

Reseeding the open environment plots with a consistent grass seed.

Testing how different types of pasture grasses react to the additives.

Testing in differing climates may produce different results

Testing different types of Wood Ash (spruce, birch, etc.) and different types of Rock Dust (Lava rock, sedimentary rock, etc.)

Adding compost to the growth plots

Thank you Alex for an excellent project, and we look forward to where you take this project next! Great job!