Farm Facts & Furrows

by OMAFRA Ag Rep Brian Bell

Cover crops

Cover crops are an integral part of crop rotations. Research has shown that 30 percent or more cover can reduce erosion by 60 percent or more. This is significant in terms of keeping soil in place and maintaining overall soil health and productivity. Beyond erosion protection, there are other benefits from 30 percent cover. Cover, particularly with a density greater than 30 percent, can help with weed control. Another key benefit is soil temperature and moisture moderation. Bare soil is somewhat like a desert. The surface layers dry out readily and are prone to wide temperature swings between day and night. In early summer, dry, bare soils like sands can easily get above 40°C during the day. Much of the life in soil, for example the bacteria that drives the nitrogen cycle, is highly sensitive to temperature fluctuations. The optimum temperature range for most biological processes is 20-30°C. Keeping soil covered can help to moderate temperature changes and support more active cycling.

Combating climate change

The provincial and federal governments are supporting Ontario farmers and continuing to combat climate change by boosting energy efficiency on farming operations. This support will help farmers to modify their equipment and improve efficiency at existing agricultural production facilities, which will help reduce their carbon emissions as well as improve soil health and nutrient management. In addition, Ontario and Canada have added four new project categories under the Growing Forward 2 program that are dedicated to helping farmers transition to a low carbon economy. Eligible projects within these new categories include: supporting farmers to retrofit grain dryers to improve heat recovery; modifying fertilizer and manure application equipment to improve nutrient placement within soil and reduce runoff into Ontario’s waterways; and improving the energy efficiency of lighting systems in agricultural buildings to help farmers conserve energy.