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why agriculture? Nancy McLean

Posted by stephanie rogers on January 31, 2020 in News, Research
Dr. Nancy McLean, Assistant Dean, Students and Assistant Professor, Plant Breeding, Genetics
Dr. Nancy McLean, Assistant Dean, Students and Assistant Professor, Plant Breeding, Genetics

Research Priority:
Perennial legume and grass mixtures are good for the environment and provide high quality, low cost silage for cattle and sheep.

Dr. Nancy McLean is leading a Canada-wide study on management and quality of silage from perennial mixtures on dairy farms. The aim is to identify management practices that increase silage quality in order to reduce the use of cereals and other supplemental feeds which lead to higher costs, higher greenhouse gas emissions and a lower percentage of health-promoting fatty acids in milk.

The goal is a healthy environment, healthy cattle, healthy dairy consumers and more resilient farmers through improved perennial forage management.

What inspires you to do this work?

I care deeply for Mother Earth and feel a responsibility to use my skills to enhance stewardship of the environment.

Agricultural ecosystems can be challenging to manage sustainably. The project on silage quality aims to identify management practices related to silage production which utilize perennial legume-grass mixtures to produce high quality feed without the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, while increasing carbon sequestration in soils (i.e., reducing greenhouse gas emissions).

Additionally, ruminants fed diets which contain a high proportion of forage crops, are healthier and produce milk and meat with significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which positively impacts health of consumers. Increased reliance on perennial forages also reduces the need for fossil fuels to transport supplemental feeds and for the additional field management required for annual crops.

Another source of inspiration are farmers. I hope that the results of this research project will provide knowledge that farmers can use to increase profitability and productivity in an environmentally responsible way.

What impact will your work have on the average Canadian?

I hope that the work will positively impact Canadians by providing sufficient supplies of nutritionally enhanced foods and by contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.