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Soil Quality Is On The Public Radar

“National Soil Conservation

Week allows us to celebrate this success and keep soils in the public eye.”

– GLEN SHAW

Farm soils are moving up the radar of public interest. Long the forgotten child of the environmental movement, there is growing evidence that soils are becoming of greater interest to the general public and the farmers and ranchers who manage them, says the Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC).

“People generally are much more interested in where their food comes from today and much more environmentally aware,” says Glen Shaw, executive director of SCCC, as the organization celebrates National Soil Conservation Week, April 18 to 24, 2010. “On the farming side, producers are very conscious of the value that soil quality and farming systems represents to their business today and the value of their farm in the future.”

DIRECT SEEDING: Reducing or eliminating tillage is one of many ways farmers can look after soil.

Likely the biggest driver of this trend nationally is low-tillage farming systems, says Shaw. Minimumtillage or no-tillage systems use minimal soil disturbance. Unlike soil management systems of previous generations which tilled the soil extensively each

year, these direct-seeding systems plant through the crop residue of the previous year.

That farming approach leaves a healing mulch of organic material that protects the soil surface, holds moisture and helps prevent wind and water erosion. The soil cover results in more insects and other soil life which in turn attracts other species up the food chain, resulting in greater biodiversity.

Across Canada farmers are building on this renewed interest in sustainability to develop marketing relationships that add value to their farms and their industry. There has also been a corresponding increase in new technologies, research and management systems that meet these production and marketing goals.

“National Soil Conservation Week allows us to celebrate this success and keep soils in the public eye,” says Shaw. “It also allows us to focus on the need for continual improvement. There is still farmland that is not being managed effectively. Some is overtilled, has too many nutrients applied to it and there is still much to be learned about continually improving soil quality in

ALLAN DAWSON

the evolution of cropping systems.”

It’s why SCCC is a charter supporter of National Soil Conservation Week and why the values of soil management are more important every year, 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 goals and 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. “That’s another reason to salute their efforts. Hopefully in doing so, we remind farmers and ranchers and the general public of the value of well-managed soil to everyone.”

Articles on the 2010 soil champions and soil conservation in general, are available on the SCCC website www.soilcc.ca,says Shaw.

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