Soil Health in Ontario
Healthy soil is the foundation of Ontario's agri-food sector. The local foods Ontarians enjoy - more than 200 commodities - are grown on Ontario's rich agricultural lands.
Many best management practices (BMPs) can build and safeguard soil health. That's why we're working to protect the province's soils to ensure that they remain healthy and productive for future generations.
Provincial Soil Strategy
Ontario has worked with stakeholders and members of the Soil Health Working Group to create a provincial soil strategy. The strategy will help grow and sustain the province's strong agricultural sector, while protecting the environment and adapting to a changing climate.
The New Horizons: Ontario's Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy is a long-term framework that sets a vision, goals and objectives for soil health and conservation in Ontario from 2018 to 2030. It provides actions to achieve its vision, goals and objectives, and methods to measure progress.
The Role of Healthy Soil in a Changing Climate
Agriculture and climate are directly linked - anything that has a significant effect on our climate will influence farm production. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change are global concerns, and agriculture can be part of the solution.
BMPs that improve soil health can also help lower GHG emissions, reduce phosphorus loss from fields to surface water, and improve resilience to drought or excessively wet conditions. Healthy soil - an essential component of a healthy environment - is the foundation upon which a sustainable agriculture production system is built.
Best Management Practices: AF151 - Soil Health in Ontario (PDF)
This publication provides a visual overview of the many best management practices that build back and safeguard soil health, along with soil health basics and challenges to soil quality.
Best Management Practices: AF153 - Adding Organic Amendments (PDF)
Increasing the level of your organic matter in your soil will improve soil health, resilience to degradation and productivity. This factsheet describes the nature and benefits of soil organic matter, sources of organic matter and best management practices (BMPs) for adding organic amendments to the soil.
This factsheet explains the benefits of buffer strips, considerations for design and planning, and tips for establishment and maintenance.
Best Management Practices: AF163 - Cropland Retirement (PDF)
Some agricultural soils are so inherently unproductive or challenged from past degradation that they are not suitable for intensive cropping. This factsheet looks at the problems with cropping marginal or fragile lands, the benefits of and options for cropland retirement, suitable planting types, planning steps and how-to tips.
Erosion control structures are designed to management runoff from cropland during intense storm events. This factsheet explains their role unique role in soil management, different types and their specific functions, how to get started, and design, management and maintenance considerations.
Best Management Practices: AF167 - Field Windbreaks (PDF)
Field windbreaks and shelterbelts are vegetative barriers that reduce wind and water erosion, while improving crop yields and protecting sensitive crops from wind damage. This factsheet provides an overview for designing, planting and maintaining field windbreaks around croplands.
Best Management Practices: AF169 - Inter-seeding Cover Crops(PDF)
Inter-Seeding Cover Crops is a 16 page booklet that describes different ways to inter-seed cover crops, how they benefit soil health and crop productivity, as well as tips to handle the challenges that occur with changes in crop management.
Best Management Practices: AF171 - Mulch Tillage (PDF)
Conservation cropping and tillage systems have been developed and refined over the last 40 years to help keep precious topsoil in place and promote soil health. These systems adjust management, inputs and hardware to grow crops while conserving soil and water - an achievable goal. This factsheet explains mulch tillage systems, which are well suited for heavier soils, high crop residues like corn, cover crops, plowdowns, and organic amendments.
This factsheet describes types of no-till systems, their benefits and challenges, and tips for successful implementation.
Best Management Practices: AF179 - Inter-seeding Cover Crops(PDF)
Residue Management is a 12 page booklet that provides an overview of the problem with bare soils, why residues work and best practices for managing residue in various crops.
This factsheet compares continuous cropping and crop rotation systems, outlines what to consider if you want to move to crop rotation, lists tips to making it work, and describes provven crop rotation combinations.
Best Management Practices: AF187 - Wind Strips(PDF)
This 12 page booklet explains the impact of wind erosion on soil health and productivity, explores options for wind control, describes types of wind strips, and offers planning, design, and maintenance tips.
Best Management Practices: AF189 - Winter Cover Crops (PDF)
This factsheet describes the benefits, challenges, types and opportunities for growing cover crops in post-harvest conditions in Ontario.
Best Management Practices: AF191 - Soil Erosion by Water (PDF)
Field slope gradient and length, rainfall, surface water runoff, tillage and cropping practices and soil type all play a role in a field's risk for erosion by water. This publication offers best practices and tips for keeping soil where it should be.
How do I get a copy?
Hardcopies of publications can be ordered through ServiceOntario
Online at ServiceOntario Publications
By phone through the ServiceOntario Contact Centre
Order in person through a public access terminal available at ServiceOntario Centres located across the province.
For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300