By Adam Hayes, OMAFRA Soil Management Specialist, Field Crops
April 15 to 21 marked National Soil Conservation Week. Soil conservation for many years focused on protecting the soil from wind and water erosion.
Today, that is still a focus but the soil is becoming an integral part of the larger environmental picture. Soil conservation is now directly linked with water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, carbon sequestration, biodiversity and air quality. Good soil management practices improve soil health making soils more resilient to a changing climate. Healthy soils also produce healthy crops.
The Soil Conservation Council of Canada promotes soil conservation week each year. From their website:
National Soil Conservation Week is a perfect opportunity for Canadians to highlight the importance of soil health and soil science to our economy and our future. Even though healthy soil is critical to the economic and environmental sustainability of the agri-food industry, it is increasingly under stress. These stresses include:
- Increased demands on soils to grow food for growing populations;
- Changes in cropping, tillage and other practices that can degrade soil health;
- Increased frequency of extreme weather due to climate change, which can speed up soil degradation; and
- The expansion of our cities and communities.
This year the Soil Conservation Council of Canada invites you to get involved by performing the Soil Your Undies challenge. It is a fun and simple soil science experiment that tests one of the indicators of soil health – its biological activity. Visit their website soilcc.ca for more information on the challenge.
In Ontario, significant progress on the soil conservation front has been made over the last 35 years. This progress would not have been possible without the leadership that has come from the farm community with support from government programs and researchers. Initially, individual farmers and groups of farmers provided the innovation and drive to make changes in tillage systems without the information we have available today. That drive continues now as growers look for ways to supply an ever-increasing demand for their products and at the same time improve their soils and protect the environment.
Looking for some assistance in implementing soil management improvements on your farm? Two programs were recently announced that may be able to help. The Stewardship component of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership or CAP provides cost-share funding for many soil conservation and soil health practices. A second CAP program called The Lake Erie Agriculture Demonstrating Sustainability program has cost-share funding opportunities for stewardship projects for those in the Lake Erie and St Clair watersheds. Visit the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement website for more information.