Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary
By Paul Bootsma, CFFO Field Services Manager
Agriculture continues to become more sophisticated, with new technology on the horizon and science helping farmers to understand how soil, plants and nutrients all work together more and more. Then there is the understanding of the long-term consequences of our actions today and how it affects next year and years later. It seems the more we learn, the less we know.
Precision farming utilizes a lot of technology that allows farmers to understand what is happening on smaller and smaller areas of land, down to a square foot. So, the goal is to make each of these areas profitable. With high tech equipment, this is becoming a reality and is becoming affordable to more and more operators. This changes the way farming will be in the future.
The talk in today’s agriculture is all about good stewardship with our soil and water, which is what the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO) has talked about for many decades. Long-term thinking and planning of crops grown in Ontario soils will result in better yields and leave our resources in good or better shape for future farmers. The new technology and science will help achieve this.
This is some of the thinking behind the 2019 CFFO Policy Tour, entitled Myths & Methodologies: What’s Best When it comes to BMPs? There are many BMPs (best management practices) listed, for example, through OMAFRA, but how well are they used? Do today’s crop and livestock farmers try out new BMPs or do they do the same as in past years or just do what their neighbour does?
The CFFO Policy Tour travels across the province during the winter months each year, linked to our 21 district annual meetings. Members are given the opportunity to talk about what happens on their farms and share their experiences, whether good or bad. Members will talk to each other and discuss their practices and have the opportunity to learn from the group.
The information that is gathered at these roundtable discussions will be collected and documented into a report to learn about general practices on our farms. Because it covers a wide range of commodities and territory across the province, the report will include a large variety of soil types and methods of tillage.
The ultimate goal of the project is to develop an automated, user-friendly decision support tool for farmers, which has been affectionately dubbed “BOSS for Farms.” BOSS stands for Best Optimization Scenario Selection.” The tool will allow farmers to find the right combination of BMPs to suit individual field conditions.
Because BMP’s often are geared to one purpose, they may not always be the most beneficial for future crops in the same field, or they could conflict with another BMP. So, the purpose of this new tool will be to consider all the options for a specific field and crop and narrow it down to what should be the most efficient and productive option.
The first of these meetings have already been held, and already we see that farmers sense discrepancies with so many of the BMPs. Although most farmers practice BMPs on their farm, there is still room for more understanding of the BMPs and their long-term benefits. Join the conversation!
Visit the CFFO website to find a Policy Tour event near you, and share your knowledge on best management practices.