By Anne Verhallen, Soil Management Specialist (Horticulture)
Every time I see a bare field this time of year I just think – what a missed opportunity – an opportunity to get a cover crop in and build soil. Cover crops should be a key part of any soil maintenance package. Adding a cover crop into the rotation not only protects the soil over winter but also adds to the length of time that the soil has an active living root system.
Active and living are the key here. Roots take in water and nutrients from the soil but don’t forget plant roots continuously slough off and they also produce and secrete compounds back into the soil. These are called root exudates. These exudates can be waste materials from plant processes or they can be compounds with a known function like lubrication or defence. Research has shown that, in their own way plants continuously communicate with other plants and other organisms, often through these root exudates.
In 2016, many areas of the province saw very warm and dry conditions, creating challenges for horticulture and field crop producers. Many wells were still dry leading into the winter. In other years, like the start of the 2017 growing season, the province experienced periods of excessive rain, leading to saturated soils and flooding.
No one can control the weather, but we can plan for it. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) encourages you to plan for future weather – conserving water and using it efficiently can help during low water conditions, and having effective drainage systems in place can help with saturated soils and runoff. Continue reading Do you have a water contingency plan?→
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is rolling out a total of 21 new soil health publications. These publications provide best management practices to help you preserve and conserve soil while improving soil health and crop production.
The International Plant Nutrition Institute has just released a new summary of best management practices for reduction of phosphorus losses for the major commodity crops of North America. Many of these practices are applicable to vegetable production, as well.