Climate change is affecting growing conditions on Vancouver Island by increasing seasonal average temperatures, shifting precipitation patterns, and lengthening the growing season.
Climate change is also increasing variability within and across production seasons (e.g., timing of frosts, timing/quantity of precipitation). This brings risks and new challenges but also some opportunities presented by warmer average temperatures.
However, changing crops poses new challenges, and the opportunity to conduct field trials to demonstrate alternate or underused cropping systems can provide confidence to producers.
Vancouver Island forage, dairy and livestock producers are accustomed to variable seasonal growing conditions and many producers report experimenting with new crops, crop varieties, and crop mixes.
Following the 2020 completion of the Vancouver Island Regional Adaptation Strategies, a project was undertaken to identify key areas of interest and priorities for new crops on Vancouver Island. Forage producers identified a range of crops and practices they had interest in growing more widely.
One of the top areas of interest was in annual silage crops that can provide an alternative to corn. Motivations for interest in these crops include challenges with intensifying summer droughts impacting corn yields, wetter spring/fall seasons shortening production windows, the need for a lower-input crop on marginal sites/situations, and a desire to add diversity into cropping rotations to respond to unforeseen crop losses and failures.
The objective of this project was to identify and evaluate the potential of annual silage crop mixes to build resilience on Vancouver Island forage farms. To achieve this, two different crop mixes were developed and planted on two different farms in each of 2021 and 2022.
In each year, only one crop was harvestable. The harvests were ensiled and feed quality evaluated through forage analyses.