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OSCIA launches pilot project to improve soil health


June 19, 2021
By Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association

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Farmers in Lambton, Renfrew and Simcoe counties can now apply to participate in a new pilot project, developed by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA),  to improve their soil’s health.

Successful applicants will work with an expert coach – either a certified crop adviser (CCA) or professional agrologist – to learn more about the key soil productivity practices of soil testing and/or cover cropping.

Farmers in the soil testing stream will:

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  • Soil test their farms;
  • Learn how to interpret soil test reports;
  • Improve field-specific fertility programs;
  • Learn how to monitor soil fertility levels; and
  • Develop crop nutrient plans to manage nutrient levels and fertilizer costs.

Farmers in the cover cropping stream will:

  • Try new cover crop approaches that meet the needs of their farms;
  • Learn how to maximize the benefits of cover crops;
  • Learn how to manage cover crop challenges; and
  • Develop a cover crop plan to meet the goals of their farms.

“Cover cropping is an evolving science,” says Jennifer Doelman, a CCA and farmer in Renfrew County who also serves as an expert coach for this pilot project. “We need to be able to adapt to regional differences, including length of frost-free period, typical amounts of snow cover, extent of livestock production, etc. Expert coaches are also connected with the local networks to know what resources and equipment are available for seeding cover crops.”

Participating farmers will receive a total maximum reimbursement of 60 per cent of eligible costs (up to $2,500 per applicant per stream) to support their projects.

“This pilot project builds on the Ontario Soil & Crop Improvement Association’s long-term commitment to cultivating grassroots engagement and fostering a culture of continuous improvement,” says Chad Anderson, OSCIA president. “We know that local knowledge and connections are vital to the adoption of optimal farm production and stewardship practices.”

Farmers across Ontario can also access practical resources in the new one-stop shop on the Accelerate Your Soil Health Game website. Here, farmers will find:

  • Local advice and strategies;
  • Industry resources;
  • Tools; and
  • Information on funding opportunities available through conservation authorities and local municipalities.

“Through the combination of access to expert coaches and a one-stop shop of online resources, the Accelerate your Soil Health Game pilot project aims to provide farmers with the regionally specific information and technical guidance they need to apply these soil productivity practices on more acres,” says Tracey Ryan, OSCIA applied research co-ordinator.

Visit https://www.ontariosoilcrop.org/accelerate-your-soil-health/ to access resources and learn about pilot project eligibility and how to apply.

The Accelerate your Soil Health Game Pilot Project is part of a three-year applied research initiative that began in 2019. The initiative supports improving soil health, productivity and water quality on farms across Ontario. This project is funded by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) identified the need for the project and OSCIA is delivering the project.