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 (for example, 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
Video transcript

[Upbeat music begins.]

[Aaron Glenn talks to the camera.]

Aaron Glenn: The objective of the Eastern Prairies Living Labs is to encourage the adoption of beneficial management practices in agricultural landscapes of Manitoba.

[An aerial view of a herd of cattle running. Then, we see three people in a pasture, looking at the methane monitoring equipment being used in a field surrounded by cattle.]

Text on screen: Living Lab – Eastern Prairies – The proof is in the pasture

[Glen and Pam Lowry talk to the camera while standing in a field.]

Text on screen: Glen and Pam Lowry – Cow-Calf Producers – Darlingford, Manitoba

Pam Lowry: Hi, I'm Pam Lowry.

Glen Lowry: And I'm Glen Lowry. We're cow calf producers in South Central Manitoba.

[An animation of a map is zoomed into Manitoba with a pin pointing to Darlingford, Manitoba.]

We raise about 80 cow-calf pairs every year and do a rotational grazing system to try to improve the land and improve the grass - and make the farm a better place.

[Aaron Glenn talks to the camera.]

Text on screen: Dr. Aaron Glenn – Research Scientist – Brandon Research and Development Centre, AAFC

Aaron Glenn: The most exciting thing about this collaboration is working with Glen and Pam, who are very innovative producers and early adopters of a management practice known as adaptive multi paddock grazing or mob grazing that we think can sequester a significant amount of carbon.

[Aaron and Glen stand in a field with cattle behind them.]

My role with this Living Lab project is to evaluate practices or beneficial management practices that will sequester carbon and or reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farms and pastures.

[Three cattle stand next to each other behind a wire fence.]

So in the case of this specific project, we are looking at the impact of the grazing management being used by Lowrys on sequestering carbon and methane emissions from the animals.

[Aaron opens and analyzes a piece of equipment in the field.]

We're using a micro meteorological system and technique to measure the net carbon dioxide and methane fluxes from the herd of grazing cattle.

So what we're trying to demonstrate here is putting some numbers to what the net carbon uptake of vegetation in the soil system is versus the impact or influence of the cattle when they are here.

[Glen and Pam Lowry talk to the camera while standing in a field. Cut to Glen and Pam driving a four wheeler down a dirt road on their property.]

Glen Lowry: My main role is to keep track of when the cattle are on the certain paddocks and how many numbers of cattle are out there so Aaron can apply that to his research to see when the methane levels go up, that's when the cows are around the site.

It's important to measure the methane because from what the cows expel to the atmosphere and we can, Aaron can prove that what the grass is taking up as far as carbon is far outweighing any negative effects from the methane that they are expelling to the atmosphere.

Aaron Glenn: When we have the data workshop and we can share it with Glen and Pam and share it with the broader cattle ranching community that people will be able to take away and, you know, whether or not it's a carbon copy of what they're doing or they just take tidbits of what has workedand apply it to their situation, then that could be a you know, we can consider that a very positive outcome from the Living Labs Program.

[Justin Reid talks to the camera.]

Text on screen: Justin Reid – Manager – Redboine Watershed District

The Watershed District basically plays a role of main liaison between the federal researchers, the federal staff and the landowners on the ground.

[Aaron, Glen and one other stand in the field surrounded by equipment.]

It's important for us to be a partner.

[An aerial view of the field with a herd of cattle in the distance.]

Partnerships are kind of at the core of everything that we do, especially the partnerships with our local landowners across the district.

It gives landowners, like the Lowrys…

[Glen and Pam drive a four-wheeler down a dirt path throughout the property.]

…an idea of the impact that they're having on the watershed and based on the impacts that are discovered through the research that's ongoing, they can either modify or change or keep doing what they're doing with their operations if things are going well.

[Pam Lowry talks to the camera.]

Pam Lowry: We have a lot of young producers coming to us. Obviously they see what we're doing hereand they're questioning it and they are applying their practices and changing their thoughts and the way things are as well.

Justin Reid: The data showing how grazing management systems can have an impact on the watershed, both with land, water, air and just the knowledge that small landowners can make a difference.

They don't need to be a large corporate farm or farm a ton of acres. But small, small landowners can make a difference. And a difference that we can repeat with other landowners.

Aaron Glenn: It kind of comes back to the goal of the living labs and what we're hoping to achieve.

This idea of co-development is a bit broader, that Glen and Pam were already doing something that was great.

[Aaron walks past a shed.]

So if we get actual data that supports what they're doing, whether it's on the greenhouse gas side, soil health, biodiversity or all together as a package, then that can serve in as example with the broader cattle ranching community.

[Glen and Pam stand in a field and talk to the camera.]

Glen: What we're doing here is really good for the farm, for one, for the cattle…

[An aerial view of a herd of cattle grazing.]

…and working together with Aaron and the Living Labs Project, it can help.

We're proud of what we do here, and it's benefiting the land and everything and everyone.

[Upbeat music ends.]

Text on screen: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada – Agriculture et Agroalimentaire Canada

[Government of Canada wordmark]


The objective of the Living Lab - Eastern Prairies is to have producers, partners and scientists working together to co-develop management practices and evaluate their feasibility and benefits to ensure better and faster adoption.

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