REGINA -- A University of Calgary professor is encouraging farmers to leave natural wetlands untouched while farming.

During an online panel presentation that classified the Saskatchewan wetlands as “stressed,” University of Calgary Department of Biological Sciences Associate Professor, Paul Galpern, said natural wetland areas on fields can allow nature to contribute to the crops.

Galpern said bugs in the wetlands can help pollinate canola crops or eat pests. He said the areas also act as a sponge for water control on the field and can help with water quality.

“The drainage across much of the prairies is actually natural infrastructure,” Galpern said.

Galpern said natural green spaces play important engineering and cultural roles in cities, which can also be applied on farms.

“The infrastructure has multiple purposes in reality and perhaps using that lens might help in agricultural places,” Galpern said.

According to the panel, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12 encourages using natural resources, such as water, sustainably in both consumption and production practices.

Owner and operator of McCreary Land and Livestock Ltd. Ian McCreary said he usually see higher crop yields in fields where he has allowed the wetland area to stay natural.

Galpern said creating messy areas can be costly and difficult, so it’s important to try and maintain the wetland areas that still exist.

“If the governments paid, and some of the resources that they put into agriculture went in to protecting those existing wetlands I think we could stop the destruction of existing wetlands,” McCreary said. “It’s a higher investment to create those wetlands where they’ve been in the past and I think there’s a number of areas where that investment needs to come in.”

Field Good Agronomics Ltd. owner and operator Larry Durand said farmers can also save money by growing grass in areas of their fields that are more saline. He said growing perennials in saline areas will also help control weeds and clubroot.

CTV News Regina has reached out to the Ministry of Environment for comment.