Biology professor Kerri Finlay

University of Regina researchers seeking to discover if dugouts can help offset greenhouse gases emitted by farmers have received a funding boost from the province.

Saskatchewan agriculture minister Lyle Stewart announced on Jan. 12 that Saskatchewan's Agriculture Development Fund will receive over $7 million this year to support 46 agriculture research projects.

“This keeps us ahead of the game, it costs a little money but it’s money well spent,” said Stewart at a press conference in Saskatoon.

According to the Saskatchewan government’s website, the development fund was created to spark research that will help farmers and ranchers become successful.

U of R biology professor Kerri Finlay will be working on the project, titled Tools for Carbon Neutral Farming: the Role of Dugouts in Greenhouse Gas Capture. The researchers will receive $255,030 from the $7 million fund.

“We know that there is a huge return to the (agricultural) industry and it keeps us competitive in world markets,” Stewart told the media.

According to Finlay, a dugout is a manmade body of water that farmers dig out for various reasons, mainly to prevent flooding. Initial findings have suggested that dugouts pull in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“We think that there is the potential to use these already existing dugouts….farmers could use (dugouts) to offset greenhouse gases,” said Finlay.

The objectives laid out by the research project are to measure the volume of greenhouse gases captured (or released) by dugouts, what would be the best way to manage these dugouts, and to compare results throughout the different seasons.

Finlay notes that these dugouts could be producing methane and other harsh greenhouse gases; if that’s the case, then these will not offset gases. At this early stage it is unclear whether or not a solution will be found or more problems discovered.

The researches have three years to complete their research. Finlay said if the results look promising it will take several years for them to get to the point where dugouts could be used as official offsets.

Finlay said a positive finding could help farmers once the carbon tax is enforced in 2018, by giving them an offset against the tax. However it could be years after the carbon tax is put in place before the results are ready.