Living Lab – Eastern Prairies

Living Lab – Eastern Prairies comprises of research activities conducted across four watersheds in Manitoba: Upper Oak River, Swan Lake, North Shannon Creek, and Main Drain.

Description of this image follows.
Description of above image

A map of lower Manitoba highlighting the locations of four watersheds where Living Lab – Eastern Prairies research is taking place. These watersheds include Main Drain, North Shannon Creek, Swan Lake and UpperOak River. Prepared by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Watershed boundary data provided by Water Stewardship and Biodiversity Division of MB. Basemap provided by Esri, Maxar, GeoEye, Earthstar Geographics, CNES/Airbus DS, USDA, USGS,AeroGRID, IGN, and the GIS User Community.

The Eastern Prairies represents a diverse landscape from tall grass prairie to forests. Agriculture within the region is equally diverse, covering typical prairie crops like cereals and canola, to newer or less common crops such as soybean, potato and corn. In addition, major livestock production systems are found in the region.

To cover the diversity of this agricultural landscape, and in consultation with local collaborators and farmers, four environmental priorities have been identified:

  • Soil health
  • Water management
  • Habitat conservation
  • Climate change

Further discussions with producers and collaborators in each watershed provided direction to the development of a collection of research activities that reflect their priorities with regards to resiliency and sustainability of agriculture in their watersheds.


  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Participating producers within the four watersheds
  • Manitoba Association of Watersheds (Lead collaborator)
  • Assiniboine West Watershed District (for the Upper Oak River Watershed)
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • International Institute for Sustainable Development
  • Keystone Agricultural Producers
  • Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development
  • Manitoba Forage & Grasslands Association
  • Nature Conservancy of Canada
  • Pembina Valley Watershed District (for the Swan Lake Watershed)
  • Redboine Watershed District (for the North Shannon Creek Watershed)
  • Seine Rat Roseau Watershed District (for the Main Drain Watershed)
  • Swan Lake First Nation


Perennial and cover crops

The objective is to investigate how perennial and cover crops can improve crop yield, livestock productivity, wildlife (including pollinator and other beneficial insect) habitat and water quality, and to capture and store carbon dioxide.

Lead collaborator or Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada activities:

  • Develop alternative management systems in annual crop fields using principles of variable zone management (e.g. seed perennial crops in low producing areas in annual crop fields)
  • Evaluate the use of regenerative grazing management to capture and sequester carbon in grassland soil
  • Assess existing habitat capacity and habitat quality in headlands, pastures and marginal lands
  • Identify areas where habitat can be created or improved
  • Monitor practices to reduce crop damage and livestock predation

Soil health and fertility monitoring protocols

The objective is to develop on-farm soil health and fertility indicators.

Lead collaborator or Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada activities:

  • Evaluate the impacts of cropland farm management practices on soil health and fertility
  • Generate on-farm soil health and fertility indicators
  • Contribute to the development of soil health trends at the watershed level
  • Provide valuable soil information to participating producers, allowing them to compare soil heath between fields and within fields (for instance, between low-and high-growth areas) and changes over time
  • Develop and apply regenerative agriculture principles to restore soil ecological function and re-build deep topsoil

Nutrient management to reduce nutrient losses

The objective is to reduce nutrient loss to runoff water and air (greenhouse gas emissions) by improving our understanding of the interactions between fertilizer and the landscape.

Lead collaborator or Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada activities:

  • Develop management practices for fertilizer use to reduce harmful nutrients entering water bodies
  • Use slow release fertilizer to improve nutrient use efficiency
    • Develop precise application rates for slow release fertilizers
    • Understand the dynamics of slow release fertilizers across fields in the Eastern Prairies
  • Predict crop yield and nutrient changes at varying physical and time scales (using computer models)

Water quality and quantity management

The objective is to identify and demonstrate practices for water quality and quantity (drainage and retention) management.

Lead collaborator or Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada activities:

  • Evaluate innovative approaches to prevent losses of water and nutrients by capturing and storing runoff water on the farm
  • Develop tile drainage management practices to reduce nutrient and wildlife (including beneficial insect) habitat losses
  • Understand how existing natural depressions and wetlands affect hydrology, peak water flow, runoff volumes and water quality

Socio-economic studies

The objective is to support and understand farmer decision-making to adopt farm management practices.

Lead collaborator or Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada activities:

  • Conduct financial, economic and social studies at both individual farm and watershed scales
  • Identify costs, benefits and barriers to implementing new practices by farmers

Engagement, education and outreach

The objective is to undertake engagement, education and outreach activities to increase the adoption of new farming practices.

Lead collaborator or Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada activities:

  • Communicate the environmental and economic benefits of new practices to the farming community
  • Use a variety of traditional and innovative methods to transfer knowledge, including demonstrations, workshops, videos and peer-to-peer learning opportunities