From FCC Express
By Owen Roberts
Site-specific farming has taken a $5.1-million step forward in Ontario.
Last week the province announced it was partnering with the federal government on a new initiative to modernize and update soil maps – key to developing environmental farm plans.
“Soil type is a basic component farmers build on,” says Gord Green, an Oxford County dairy producer and president of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association. “Having an up-to-date soil map to be able to help identify the specific type of soil on any site on your farm is a valuable management tool.”
Time for updates
Green says that in some cases decades have passed since soil maps have been updated, due to a lack of resources.
That means some farmland may be incorrectly classified – improvements over the years, such as drainage, may have upped its classification. Municipal planners need the latest classification information for accurate and responsible development, particularly if productive farmland is involved.
Farmers need that information too, says Green, for precision input management or when purchasing land, for example.
For its part, the province says new data collected through soil mapping “will help farmers adjust their management practices to protect natural resources.”
Tech at work
A range of technologies will be used to develop the maps, including light detection and ranging, remote sensing, geographic information system tools and specialized computer software.
Soil mapping will begin shortly, focused on farmland bordering the City of Ottawa, the County of Peterborough and the Cochrane-to-Hearst corridor in northeastern Ontario.
Over the next two years, mapping will focus on the upper part of the Grand River Conservation Authority, and Temiskaming Shores area of northeastern Ontario.
The province says it will pursue long-term funding to ensure modern soil mapping is expanded to cover the entire province.
Agriculture, food and rural affairs minister Jeff Leal praised the soil mapping initiative.
“It’s an important step forward for gathering data that will support the health of our province’s agricultural soils, and ensure that we have the information needed to promote environmental and economic sustainability in Ontario’s agriculture sector for generations to come,” he says.