Sask. dugout study to examine carbon holding capabilities

Researcher seeks Saskatchewan volunteers to help determine if dugouts are a viable way of storing carbon and can be used as an offset tool

A University of Regina researcher is looking for 100 Saskatchewan dugouts to sample to find out how they could be used for carbon-neutral farming.

Kerri Finlay, assistant professor in the biology department, said previous research suggests that dugouts could bury large amounts of carbon and produce minimal greenhouse gases.

“Absolutely nobody is looking at dugouts specifically,” she said. “People are looking at wetlands and so we definitely want to compare them.

“In terms of greenhouse gases, we think that dugouts might be a better shot at actually sequestering carbon and pulling it in.”

Finlay said newer dugouts might be better sinks than older ones that have become more like sloughs or wetlands as the sides slide in.

“We know that wetlands actually produce a fair bit of methane, partly because they’re shallow along the edges and partly because they have big plants coming out of it,” she said.

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Finlay plans to use research money from the province’s Agricultural Development Fund to sample dugouts this August. Ideally, she wants dugouts from around the agricultural zone be-cause different soils, depths and conditions will affect the results.

She is also interested in the use of bluestone, which could inhibit the bacteria that make methane. She also plans to study dugout shape and other management practices such as dredging and how they affect greenhouse gases.

The goal is to provide a carbon offset tool for farmers.

The work this year will look mainly at the carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide gases in the water itself. A small amount of mud from the bottom will also be taken to measure carbon.

From the initial 100 dugouts, 20 will be sampled four times in 2018, and then all 100 will again be sampled in 2019.

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“The fact that they’re stagnant means that you don’t have a lot of turbulence, a lot of wind that’s mixing stuff up and so anything that does start to come in should accumulate in the sediments,” she said. “If we can get carbon getting into the mud, it’s a pretty decent store. It will stay there until we dig it out.”

Finlay added she plans to have a website operating this summer so people can follow the work, but the first results won’t be available until at least fall.

Finlay is looking for landowners who want to volunteer their dugouts for the study. She said she would need to be at dugout sites for an hour or two and would prefer dugouts that are easily accessible by road.

To volunteer a dugout or for more information, contact Finlay at kerri.finlay@uregina.ca or 306-585-4236.

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