How Sustainable are Canadian Oat and Pulse Crops?

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Pulse and Oat Regenerative Ag Project – Assessing and Documenting Environmental Performance on the Farm with Field to Market Canada

Interview with Harvey Bradford Friday, June 17, 2022

Avena Foods and thirty of their pulse and oat farmers are partnering with Field to Market Canada in a regenerative agriculture sustainability project spanning three years and 30,000 acres. The first aggregate  findings from this project will be presented at Avena’s Aug. 4 Customer and Farmer Appreciation Day.

Farmers are central to Field to Market Canada projects,” said Harvey Bradford, president of Field to Market Canada. “Through their active participation in Canadian Fieldprint projects they are able to assess the environmental performance of their operations and achieve continuous improvement over time.”

In this three-year project, hard data is collected from each farmer on three fields. Field to Market Canada adds this data to the Canadian Fieldprint Calculator, where it is compared with baseline metrics of land use efficiency, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and soil erosion risk. Then education and innovation objectives are set with the goal to improve the metrics.

“Field to Market Canada and Avena have worked alongside growers to set up the project, collect data and provide those growers back with individual, confidential, sustainability reports on their own farms,” said Bradford. “This summer, we are going to be taking part in Avena’s customer and farmer field day to present aggregate results back to growers give an overview of how they compare to regional benchmarks,” said Bradford.

“Providing the foundation from the benchmark data to growers and project partners is really critical,” Bradford said. “Once you have a benchmark, you can begin to make improvements going forward. This benchmark will be based off the first two years of pulse and oat acres, and it will establish a baseline for pea and oat production through Avena.”

While Field to Market continues to collect and catalogue data, the Avena project is moving into Phase 2, exploring systems and technologies that have the potential to improve soil health. Intercropping and cover crops are two practices Avena is currently researching.

“At Field to Market Canada, we take on an active role with our project partners by helping them  with the continuous improvement of sustainability in commodity crop production,” said Bradford. “Right now, we’re working with Avena to discuss potential practices that would make sense for growers in the regions that they are growing peas and oats as far as improving sustainability performance,” he said.

Field to Market Canada has gone through steady growth since its inception two years ago, adding members, collecting new data and refining the Canadian Fieldprint Calculator. “At this time, we have projects established across Canada and data in the Fieldprint Calculator for the leading field crops in each province,” said Bradford.

Field to Market Canada’s has roots that go back to  2012. In 2020, they partnered with their U.S. counterpart, Field to Market, an organization with nearly 170 members and close to 100 projects.

Over the past two years, Field to Market Canada has experienced strong growth, with the recent addition of including Avena Foods, Mondelez, Warburtons and Pepsi-Co Canada.

“Many of our recent members are seeking to consolidate their sustainability initiatives across North America under the Field to Market umbrella, and by joining our organization here in Canada they benefit from a unified approach on both sides of the border,” Bradford said.

To ensure the continued scientific rigor of their sustainability metrics, Field to Market Canada is doing a comprehensive update to their macro-level metrics this summer. This will ensure that the metrics being produced, and the tools used to collect data, are up-to-date and offer members the most advanced tools available to them for tracking continuous improvement.

“This summer we are extending the time series of our metrics using revised methodologies to provide more accurate estimates of the respective sustainability parameters included in our metrics,” said Bradford. “The update will also result in the metrics being more crop specific and include new additional crops.”

“This work will benefit farmers by providing them with a more complete and relevant representation of sustainability outcomes of crop production across Canada, in terms of both regional time trends and field-level monitoring,” said Bradford. “It will provide improved and updated measurement that encourages and validates continuous improvement on the sustainability of Canadian crop production.”

Field to Market Canada Mission: Field to Market Canada, a partner of Field to Market in the United States, brings together a diverse group of grower organizations, agribusinesses, food companies, conservation groups, and agency partners to focus on promoting, defining and measuring the sustainability of commodity crop production.  Field to Market Canada follows a science-based, outcomes-focused, technology-neutral approach to understanding and promoting sustainability for Canadian commodity crops.


Learn more about Avena’s regenerative agriculture initiatives.