UNBC Launches Crop Feasibility Study
Prince George, B.C. – Federal and provincial funding has allowed the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) to launch a cash and bioenergy crop feasibility study this month.
The $83,000 will allow UNBC researchers to study whether a variety of crops could be successfully grown in the Vanderhoof and Fort St. James area.
The study will factor in anticipated changes in climate conditions in the region including increased temperatures, increased spring runoff/rainfall and decreased water availability during the summer.
“I’m very excited. It’s a fantastic project,” says Dr. Steve Helle, an environmental engineering professor at UNBC. “We have a lot of community involvement and community partners and they’re also quite excited about the project so it’s kind of contagious.”
Those partners include the Nak’azdli First Nation in Fort St. James and project partner Little Valley Farms in Vanderhoof. He says both have dedicated small plots of land which are not currently in production.
Helle says the project has a number of goals.
“The immediate goal is to identify crops that we can use to run some field trials on over the next couple of years,” he says.
“The overall goal, the crops that we’re going to choose, we want to use unutilized land that’s not in agricultural production. There are possibilities of growing specialty, distinctive, unique, niche crops that can give the farms diverse incomes or additional incomes.”
Those crops could include specialty plants and vegetables, medicinal and natural health products, traditional First Nations crops and those for seed, grasses and hemp.
Helle says the research, including soil sampling, will continue over the next few months before field trails on the chosen crops begin.