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.
Wind erosion occurs in susceptible areas of Ontario but represents a small percentage of land – mainly sandy and organic or muck soils. Under the right conditions, though, it can cause major losses of soil and property — and can cause off-farm problems, too. Ask your neighbours.
This is a good day to reprint some articles about soil cover. This second one is from Adam Hayes, OMAFRA Soil Management Lead for Field Crops. This was originally run in theCropTalk newsletterin 2013.
Protecting the Soil Over Winter
The fall harvest is all but almost complete. The crop has provided cover for the soil through the summer and early fall. Between now and next spring’s planting when the crop is planted again, the soil will be exposed to pounding rains, overland flow from rain and melting snow, and high winds. All of these can cause significant soil loss and from fields or at the very least strip productive soil from areas within the fields. That soil is lost and the productivity of those areas reduced. A few simple measures can go a long way to protecting your soil.
This is a good day to reprint some articles about soil cover. First, from Anne Verhallen, OMAFRA Soil Management Lead for Horticulture. This was originally run in the ONorganic newsletter in 2013.
I recently heard Gabe Brown speak. He is a rancher in North Dakota and is probably best known for his aggressive cover cropping strategy using highly diverse mixtures. One thing he said really stands out though – he said “When we farm in Nature’s image, everything gets easier”. By this he meant farming with diverse cover crop mixtures and keeping the soil constantly covered just as Nature does.
In recent years we have seen a lot more erosion across the province – both wind and water erosion. Just think back to April 2012, we had two Mondays in particular with extended high winds. There was soil moving off fields that typically are not prone to erosion but were bare and open to the wind. Continue reading Soil is meant to be covered→
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is developing an Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy. Specifically, OMAFRA is seeking feedback on a Discussion Document that outlines a draft vision, goals and objectives for the strategy.