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OSCIA Launches Pilot Project Aimed at Increasing Soil Health on Farms

Guelph, Ont. – The Ontario Soil & Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) invites farmers in three counties to accelerate up their soil health game through a pilot project  available this summer.

Producers in Lambton County, Renfrew County and Simcoe County will have the opportunity to apply for cost-share funding to implement soil health practices including cover cropping and soil testing. Successful applicants will work one-on-one with Certified Crop Advisors (CCA) or Professional Agrologists (P.Ag) to increase their knowledge of the soil productivity practices.

The CCAs/P.Ags will help producers in the cover cropping stream develop cover cropping programs to meet the unique needs of their farms. The CCAs/P.Ags will help producers in the soil testing stream learn how to interpret their soil test reports and develop field-specific fertility programs.

“OSCIA is pleased to be testing this new and innovative project design,” says Chad Anderson, President of OSCIA. “We are eager to support producers in accessing local expertise, which is vital in addressing information and knowledge barriers to the implementation of these proven soil productivity practices.”

“The goal is to encourage more producers to incorporate soil testing and cover cropping into their regular farm management practices to support soil health.”

The pilot project was developed after extensive research into the reasons why soil testing and cover cropping are not being implemented on more farms. OSCIA consulted members of an Advisory Team to help understand how to overcome the barriers farmers face when adopting these practices. Advisory Team members included:

  • Farmers
  • Representatives from soil testing laboratories
  • Representatives from cover crop seed dealers
  • Staff from Conservation Authorities
  • CCAs

While the focus on the project is on farmers who do not regularly soil sample, the project will also assist farmers who want to expand their soil sampling practices. Successful applicants who participate in the soil testing stream will receive one on one assistance as well as being eligible to receive a total maximum reimbursement of 60 percent of eligible costs (up to $2,500).

Farmers looking to try cover crops for the first time and those individuals wishing to diversify their cover cropping practices will be eligible to apply for the pilot project. Participants in the cover cropping stream will receive assistance setting their cover crop goals as well as being eligible for a total maximum reimbursement of 60 percent of eligible costs (up to $2,500). The project will run for the 2021 growing season and OSCIA will release more details on the application process soon.

“The project relies on quite an innovative design and delivery construct,” says Tracey Ryan, OSCIA Applied Research Coordinator. “We will lean on the certified crop advisors who already work in the targeted counties to share their expertise with participants. The process will be evaluated throughout, with less weight on the actual acres involved and more emphasis on whether the approach leads to stronger engagement by farmers.”

OSCIA seeks CCAs and P.Ags in the counties of Lambton, Renfrew, and Simcoe with a passion for soil testing and/or cover cropping to share their agronomic expertise with successful project applicants. Interested CCAs and P.Ags can contact Tracey Ryan (tryan@ontariosoilcrop.org) for more information.

The Reducing Barriers to BMP Adoption – Soil Testing and Cover Crops is 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 federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs identified the need for the project and the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association is delivering it.

Source : OSCIA

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