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Getting dirty with soil is good

Getting dirty with soil is good

Now in its second year, the Weston Family Soil Health Initiative is providing $10 million in 2023 to better support Canadian farmland soil health practices.

By Andrew Joseph, Farms.com; Image courtesy of the Weston Family Foundation
 

The Weston Family Foundation, via its Weston Family Soil Health Initiative, has announced it is providing $10 million in funding to help promote more adaptive and resilient agricultural lands by improving farm soil health.

The Initiative is a five-year, $10 million funding opportunity that aims to expand the adoption of ecologically based beneficial management practices (BMPs) that increase soil organic matter to improve biodiversity and resiliency on agricultural lands across Canada.

Launched last year, the initiative seeks to expand the adoption of ecologically-based BMPs, such as cover cropping, nutrient management (4R principles), and crop diversification/rotation that will increase soil organic matter to improve biodiversity and resiliency on agricultural lands across Canada.

Healthy soil organic matter helps to improve water retention, supports carbon sequestration, and makes agro-ecosystems more resilient and better able to recover and adapt to environmental stresses such as drought and floods.

“It is clear, through the high-quality applications we received, that soil health is of growing importance in the agriculture sector and that there are scientifically proven yet underutilized approaches to increase soil organic matter on Canada’s farmlands,” stated Emma Adamo, the Chair for the Weston Family Foundation. “Our Foundation is committed to supporting landscape-level efforts to find solutions to our environmental challenges and, ultimately, improve the well-being of Canadians.”

Soils host 25 percent of all global biodiversity, but management intensification and habitat loss are generating a loss of biodiversity on agricultural lands at an alarming rate. It’s why the $10 million in funding over five years has been awarded to eight agricultural and conservation organizations working to promote soil health BMPs through incentivizing stewardship, supporting outreach and education, and supporting market-based approaches towards adoption.

Awarded projects include an innovative reverse auction model for BMP adoption, field-tested hubs to evaluate cover crop management strategies, and a first-of-its-kind network of First Nations soil health Learning Circles that will co-develop land-based training workshops with First Nations land managers and the farmers that farm their land on BMPs that can improve soil health, including crop diversification, reduced inputs, and landscape diversification. Details on the funded projects can be found at https://westonfoundation.ca/project/weston-family-soil-health-initiative/.

Improving agricultural management practices, particularly those that are nature-based, is now globally recognized as one of the most effective solutions to improve resiliency and reduce biodiversity loss.

“Agricultural lands represent 154 million acres of the Canadian landscape and Canadians should be increasingly concerned by the rate at which our agricultural soils are deteriorating,” explained Michael Bradstreet, the Chair of the Weston Family Soil Health Initiative external advisory panel and former Senior Vice-president of Conservation at Nature Conservancy of Canada. “We have an opportunity to address the gap in Canada by helping to mobilize the sector to increase the adoption of soil health-improving practices.”

The Weston family fortune began with the purchase of a Toronto-area bakery in 1884 and now has global interests primarily in food and clothing ventures. At the Weston Family Foundation (formerly The W. Garfield Weston Foundation), more than 60 years of philanthropy has it championing world-class health research and innovation with the same passion it has for supporting initiatives to protect and restore biodiversity within the Canadian landscapes.

For more information about the Weston Family Soil Health Initiative, visit https://westonfoundation.ca/project/weston-family-soil-health-initiative/.


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