The ONFARM program was officially announced by the province on December 5th, 2019. The ONFARM program will be administered by OSCIA with funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP), on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). The program will occur from 2019-2023. The new program will build on the Great Lakes Agricultural Stewardship Initiative’s (GLASI) Priority Subwatershed Project (PSP), which involved the establishment monitoring networks and operations by the following Conservation Authority’s in the identified agricultural subwatersheds:
- Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA) – Gully Creek
- Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) – Wigle Creek
- Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority (LTVCA) – Jeannettes Creek
- Maitland Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA) – Garvey Glenn
- Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) – Medway Creek
The three key goals of the project are as follows:
- i) Continue monitoring and modeling the five Priority Subwatersheds
- ii) Establish on-farm paired trials in-field to identify soil health indicators and test the effectiveness of Best Management Practices (BMPs) in cooperation with farmers to define their potential to improve soil health.
iii) Enhanced engagement opportunities with stakeholders and farmers to foster a network of demonstration farms.
ERCA and the LTVCA will continue to conduct high intensity water quality monitoring and work with farmers to evaluate the effectiveness of BMPs at reducing agriculturally source nutrients loads in the Wigle and Jeannettes Creek subwatersheds.
In addition to supporting the Conservation Authorities with the continued subwatershed and edge of field monitoring, ONFARM will work to establish an expanded network of soil health testing and assessment sites across Ontario. Alongside farm cooperators, the Soil Resource Group will work to establish 25 paired BMP soil health test trials across the province in a variety of agricultural operations and spatial environments. Furthermore, a multi-year economic analysis will be conducted to evaluate the financial impact of implementing these BMP systems.
Managing Phosphorus in McGregor Creek & Jeannettes Creek
The LTVCA began accepting McGregor and Jeannettes Creek Phosphorus Reduction Program project funding applications for the 2020 growing season during February. The LTVCA received a significant number of applications to implement program supported BMPs from February to March, which has led to the project budget being fully allocated for the 2020 season.
The LTVCA is still accepting applications from interested farm businesses, as it is possible additional funds could be raised later this year, or approved projects will not be completed as planned during 2020. However, farmers who apply at this point, should do so with the understanding their projects may not be funded. To learn more about the program, contact Colin Little from the LTVCA, or visit the below webpage: https://bit.ly/33Hj4tp
Managing Phosphorus in the Sydenham River
In last year’s March edition, the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority (SCRCA) shared a new project. Funding by Environment and Climate Change Canada, the SCRCA is coordinating the development of a phosphorus management plan for the Sydenham River watershed to reduce the loading of this nutrient to local waterways and its impact on the Lake Erie Basin. Phosphorus is a limiting nutrient in freshwater environments and when it becomes available in excessive amounts, it can cause algal blooms as well as zones of low oxygen. These conditions severely degrade the water quality in lakes and rivers and can impact the safety of water for drinking, recreation, and wildlife.
In Canada, the Sydenham watershed is a significant source of phosphorus to Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie. The objective of this multi-year project is to work with local stakeholders and community members to collect and analyze available data, identify sources of phosphorus, determine best-value solutions, and implement an outreach strategy. Throughout 2019, meetings were held with the Point Source and Non-Point Source Working Groups, First Nations Engagement Committee, Advisory Committee, and Water Quality Technical Team. Feedback from these committees is directing on-going research and is being incorporated into the draft Management Plan.
Managing Phosphorus in the Essex Region
The Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) delivers an annual cost-sharing program called Clean Water Green Spaces. The program was expanded in 2018 to include cover crops and crop nutrient plans for farms in the Lake Erie watershed. To date we have funded 35 cover crop plantings and crop nutrient plans. We are still accepting applications for 2020, however 80% of funds are allocated at this time. Please see our website for more information: https://essexregionconservation.ca/stewardships-grants/agricultural-stewardship/
Like SCRCA, ERCA has begun the process of creating a regional phosphorus reduction strategy. The goal of this strategy is to identify what we already know about phosphorus specific to the Essex Region clay plains – how it’s used, where it goes and how it’s currently being managed – and what we still need to learn – how it moves, what additional measures can used to manage it. To tackle this, we are creating three subcommittees: Agricultural, Academic, and Agencies. We held our inaugural Research Roundtable with our Academic Subcommittee on January 31, 2020 and are compiling what we learned from that meeting. This project will be completed in March 2022; watch this space for updates!
The Essex Region Conservation Authority Project Team is receiving support from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) to coordinate the above committees and to provide research and writing support for the project.