Soils at Guelph, launched at the University of Guelph on Sept. 19, aims to put more high quality soil health information in the hands of farmers.
Why it matters: The continuous degradation of soil health across Ontario and Canada is creating a barrier for farmers as soil quality dwindles.
The development of the program began on World Soil Day in 2018 when a $500,000 donation was made to the University of Guelph to battle declining soil health in Ontario from Bob and Moira Kerr, Glacier FarmMedia, Lillie Ann Morris and the Ontario Agricultural College.
The donation was put under the direction of executive team members and professors Kari Dunfield, Laura Van Eerd, Claudia Wagner-Riddle and the program’s communications and outreach co-ordinator Cameron Ogilvie.
The outreach initiative was formed to advance sustainable soil management in Ontario by bridging gaps between farmers, researchers, industry, government and the general public through improving soil health education, making research available and accessible to more people and partnering with others on soil health events.
Ogilvie says they plan to improve soil health education by working with AgScape, the OAC liaison group, and the Soil Health Interpretive Centre.
They will make research more accessible and available to more people with the use of flyers, hand-outs, posters and continuing to attend farm based events, such as Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show.
“It’s a small step towards what we are hoping to reveal with the website we want to launch where we have a page that is dedicated and integrated, where you can search between people, projects and publications,” says Ogilvie.
The initiative includes continued partnership with organizations and attendance at soil health events.
“We want to keep doing more of this because we think there is power in having a unified face in all of these groups working together to improve soil.”
The organization came to be as Lilly Ann Morris grew frustrated with soil degradation, loss of class one farmland to development, the promotion of tillage practices causing erosion and the lack of political involvement to protect farmland and funding for soil health initiatives.
“It was a little over a year ago when Don (Lobb) and I spoke with Dean Rene Van Acker to find out what was needed to help move the need on soil care and this is the result of that action.”
Numerous research projects through the University of Guelph showed different farming practices to improve soil health. Ogilvie says there is a story that needs to be told from this research and a better job of telling it is needed.
“This is what I believe is at the heart of the donation to Soils at Guelph, and why I began to support soil health outreach, to support telling this story,” says Ogilvie “There are so many great organizations that are doing great work to improve soil health in Ontario. Here another initiative is starting.”
Dr. Laura Van Eerd wants farmers and agriculture industry members to think of Soils at Guelph as theirs.
“I am calling upon you to let us know what we need to do in order to promote soil care, because it’s going to take all of us (within agriculture) to improve soils in Ontario. We also have an advisory group to meet regularly to help guide Soils at Guelph consisting of OMAFRA staff, industry partners, donors and farmers — we are very well represented of Ontario agriculture.”