On a drive from Brooks to Lethbridge in mid-May, retired provincial agronomy researcher Ross McKenzie was literally stopped in his tracks by dust clouds. Carried by high winds across drought-stricken fields, the dirt was so thick it obscured the road ahead. Disappointed, he snapped a few photos and posted them on Twitter with a desperate plea for rain. McKenzie isn’t alone in his observations. Across the province, but especially in southern Alberta, farmers have noticed the return of this agricultural scourge once thought resolved.
In recent years, cover crops have been widely promoted as a regenerative practice that offers a range of benefits, both environmental and economical. Many western Canadian farmers are skeptical, though, citing short growing seasons, limited moisture and added costs as reasons they haven’t adopted the practice. Yet, policymakers and agri-businesses continue to push cover crops as a fundamental component of regenerative agriculture and overall farm sustainability. But is the adoption of cover crops a logical move for Prairie farmers?