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McCain Foods highlights regenerative ag principles

June 9, 2021  By Potatoes in Canada

As part of its efforts for greater agricultural sustainability, McCain Foods has outlined the regenerative agricultural principles it intends to implement going forward.

In its 2020 Global Sustainability Report, McCain’s committed to implementing regenerative agricultural practices across 100 per cent of its potato acreage — 370,000 acres worldwide — by 2030. McCain’s Regenerative Agriculture Framework will define and guide the implementation of regenerative agriculture on these acres over the next several years and features six key principles:

1. Improve farmer livelihoods by restoring natural processes that support soil health and biodiversity, reduce inputs, improve yields and build climate resilience:

  • Focus on building healthy soil to increase and stabilize yields with lower input costs.
  • Decreases costs by using less fertilizer, pesticides and water.
  • Review field management during the crop cycle to determine how to best implement regenerative agriculture practices.
  • Integrate natural enemies to control pests, use organic matter to retain water, improve drainage with worms and keep moisture in the system by planting trees.

2. Increase the diversity of crops grown and small and large habitats on the farm to promote biodiversity:

  • Create natural habitats near farm fields that will attract natural enemies of pests.
  • Increase and diversify crop rotation, using different crops with different benefits for the soil.
  • Add hedges and flower strips to attract beneficial wildlife and provide a wind buffer against erosion.
  • Include landscape elements.

3. Ensure soils are covered by living plants or plant residue year-round to reduce soil erosion, increase nutrient cycling and promote carbon sequestration:

  • Cover crops maximize photosynthesis and crop residues add biomass and feed for valuable micro-organisms.
  • Use organic fertilizers such as manure, compost or green manure.
  • Utilize different cover crops with different soil benefits.
  • Plant shrubs and trees to enhance the microclimate on the farm.
  • Increase carbon cycling in the soil to sequester carbon and improve soil health.

4. Use of fertilizer, pesticides and water is justified and managed to reduce risks; use technology to precisely control application of these inputs, and introduce natural predators to control pests and disease:

  • Apply nitrogen only when necessary; spray and irrigate only when needed, using GPS to accurately track and avoid overlap when spraying.
  • Use natural enemies (ie. beneficial insects) instead of pesticides.
  • Reduce toxicity of chemicals used.
  • Integrate remote sensing data to advise on when and where applications are needed.
  • Focus on natural processes.

5. Reduce tillage to maintain soil structure and keep carbon in the soil:

  • Reduce times and depth of soil disturbance.
  • Use only tillage necessary for potatoes in the crop rotation.
  • Use GPS to record tramlines and control field traffic.
  • Reduce compaction by reducing the weight of the equipment in the field and using tramlines.

6. Incorporate green manure and, where possible, livestock elements (animals, manure or compost) to increase soil fertility and organic matter:

  • Integrate manure into the soil mixture.
  • Apply compost to increase soil organic matter.
  • Apply plant materials/green manure to the field.
  • Let animals graze on the field as part of the rotation.

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