Soil healthy key to conservation

Soil health a key focus of National Soil Conservation Week April 17-23. There is a new face emerging in farm soil conservation in Canada, says the Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC). At one time soil conservation meant simply the protection from wind and water erosion, says the Council. Today it is much more than that.

“As National Soil Conservation Week is launched April 17 to 23, soil is becoming an integral part of the larger environmental picture,” says Glen Shaw, SCCC executive director. “Soil conservation in Canada’s food producing system is now directly linked with water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, carbon sequestration, biodiversity and air quality.”

Expect to hear a lot more about farm soil health in the years ahead as a result, says Shaw. “Farmers today understand the connection of soil to health. Healthy soil produces healthy crops, healthy animal feed and ultimately affects the quality of all food produced. Soil has a direct connection to human health and overall environmental awareness.”

There are many signs of real progress at the producer level, he says. Reduced tillage systems are one of the biggest drivers of soil management progress. Unlike soil management systems of previous generations in which soil was tilled extensively each year, these direct seeding systems do not use tillage, planting instead through crop residue of the previous year.

It is a farming approach that produces a healing mulch of organic material that protects the soil surface, holds moisture and helps prevent wind and water erosion. That soil cover results in greater biodiversity, and increasing biodiversity plays a significant role in building soil and plant health.

Other trends such as precision farming and site-specific farming speak to the precise, controlled use of crop inputs. All of these help provide an important connection between producers and consumers who are increasingly interested in how their food is produced.

“National Soil Conservation Week is a long-time effort to both celebrate the success in soil management and to keep soils in the public’s attention,” says Shaw. “Our goal is continual improvement and we understand that there is still much to be learned about soil quality in the evolution of cropping systems.”

SCCC is a charter supporter of National Soil Conservation Week, says Shaw. One way that is acknowledged each year by the organization is to recognize “soils champions,” producers and others from across Canada who represent the successes of the soil conservation movement.

“These people provided leadership when these soil management systems were not as popular as they are today,” adds Shaw. “As we salute their efforts hopefully we remind farmers and ranchers and the general public of the value of well managed soil to everyone.”

Those interested in fighting soil degradation can become an individual or corporate member of SCCC. Simply visit the Web site www.soilcc.ca and click on ‘Join SCCC.’