The management of riparian strips has not always been viewed favorably in the agricultural world. But we now understand better their importance and more and more producers want to develop them in order to maximize their potential.
In Montérégie, near Granby, 34 agricultural producers have participated in the development of shorelines on the Brandy Creek over the past four years. In total, nearly 14 km of riparian strips have been developed.
With Nature-Action Québec and the Gestri-Sol consulting group, these companies have accepted a sort of paradigm shift with regard to riparian strips.
Although provincial regulations have required farmers since 1991 to maintain a minimum riparian strip of 3 m around a watercourse, it took several years before this obligation was seen as an asset.
An asset is how Laurianne Levert-Gauthier, agronomist, presents the potential of a riparian strip to agricultural producers. And it turns out that 34 of them agreed to maximize these spaces often seen as futile.
Since 2016, the equivalent of 1.51 hectares has been developed over a portion totaling 13.87 km of the Brandy stream, south of Granby. 11,746 plants were planted. 38 perches were also installed: 15 nesting boxes for birds and bats and 12 pollinating boxes. Some have also planted fruit trees from which they harvest the fruits.
It was not imposed on producers. We wanted it to start from them, to be proactive in the process. And the vast majority got on board.
Laurianne Levert-Gauthier, agronomist
Originally, it was the City of Granby that reported the low level of biodiversity in certain sectors after carrying out a characterization study in 2014. The Massé stream watershed was quickly identified, which runs along several agricultural lands where one finds mainly monocultures.
Obviously, producers were not keen on the idea of being the only ones to dip into their pockets to finance riparian strip development projects.
Current projects along Brandy Creek are also funded by the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ), the Wildlife Foundation and the City of Granby. Producers therefore assume a maximum of 15% of the invoice.
One of the arguments supported by Mme Levert-Gauthier to convince farmers of the merits of developing their riparian strips, it is that “it helps them to keep the field in the field”. Vegetation helps reduce soil erosion. It also retains pesticides and fertilizers.
According to the agronomist of Gesti-Sol, the MRC de la Haute-Yamaska, of which Granby is a part, is also the only one in the province to have a higher standard in terms of riparian strips. The law provides for a buffer zone of 3 m from the high water line. Rather, the MRC calculates an area of 3 m from the top of the slope.
By improving the biodiversity of these unexploited areas, producers lose some land to cultivate, but they are making long-term gains. “Even the producers who were a little less excited at the start ended up being happy to have developed their riparian strips,” recalls Laurianne Levert-Gauthier.
Farmers in the Granby region are obviously not the only ones to review the development of riparian strips. Similar initiatives have been multiplying across Quebec in recent years.
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