Laying the groundwork for better soil

Agronomist discusses how farmers can adopt soil best management practices

By Kate Ayers
Staff Writer
Better Farming

As stakeholders consider ways to implement Ontario’s soil health strategy, a Certified Crop Adviser from Middlesex County provides grounded tips on how producers can adopt new soil management practices on their farms.

“Working together with a trusted Certified Crop Adviser would be a great starting point,” Steph Kowalski, agronomy lead with the Agromart Group, said to Better Farming in an email statement.

“Combining a farmer’s first-hand knowledge of his or her land with any available digital information and with a Certified Crop Adviser’s agronomic knowledge creates huge potential for developing an actionable soil management plan.”

    NolanBerg11/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo

Producers can refer to publications by OMAFRA and the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) to gain insight into mechanisms of soil loss, she added.

Industry experts and ag organizations also offer resources to producers.

For example, farmers can access a free Farmland Health Check-up through OSCIA to determine risk zones within their fields. The tool provides farmers with an opportunity to assess risks to soil health and water quality through a partnership between Ontario’s Certified Crop Advisers and professional agrologists, the OSCIA website said.

Once they have this information, farmers who are interested in making improvements to their soil can review such factors as landscape and crop rotation.

“Geographically speaking, any (lands) near watercourses are great places to start. High slope areas and areas prone to erosion are also good places to begin,” Kowalski said.

“From a rotational standpoint, a good place to start is after wheat harvest. This (period provides) a good chance to remediate or build some of those (vulnerable) areas, utilizing tools like cover crops, buffer strips and grassed waterways.”

Notably, farmers “don’t have to make huge capital investments or major farm practice changes right out of the gate to make a big difference,” she said.

“Something as simple as seeding a small strip along an erosion-prone river bank can have multiple positive outcomes. Even taking that (bit of land) out of production, because it always washes (out), can have huge impacts.

“If (producers) are interested in adopting a best management practice that involves a big investment, I recommend they talk to others that have already made that change, and find out the potential pros and cons for their farm operations first.” BF

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