Actively seeking, testing and adopting optimal farm production and stewardship practices
OSCIA is a part of leading edge research on soil health, crop production, bioenergy, grassland bird conservation and more.
Current OSCIA-Supported Research Initiatives
- Seed Treatment Research in Support of Pollinator Health
- Controlled Tile Drainage
- Soil Health Graduate Scholarship
- Grassland Birds and Agriculture
- Sustainable Farms
- Soil Mesocosms for Precise and Controlled Mass Balance Studies at the Field Scale: A Unique Facility in North America
Seed Treatment Research in Support of Pollinator Health
Research is underway with a team at Ridgetown campus, U. of G. to investigate insect presence (grubs, wireworms) in on-farm trials with treated seed (neonicotinoid insecticides) versus non-treated. The study is also investigating drift of planting dust unto surrounding trees/shrubs. The final field season of the 4 year trial will take place in 2017.
Key research recommendations for producers:
- Ensure pesticides stay on the seed by using approved fluency agents and polymers;
- Avoid abrasive seed lubricants;
- Filter and redirect planter exhaust dust into the soil;
- Ensure clean air flows through the vacuum intakes, and;
- Practice conservation tillage to minimize soil movement.
Research has shown benefits of controlled tile drainage for both the environment and production. The majority of nutrient discharge into water courses occurs from March to June when the soil is exposed and the majority of nutrients are applied to fields. By installing valves to slow down tile outlet discharge during dry periods, the amount of nutrient discharge can be reduced. New technology is being developed to automate valves to adjust outlet discharge to match weather and field conditions. Controlled tile drainage also has proven benefits for crop yields during drought conditions. OSCIA is working with scientists at the University of Ottawa and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada on a new tool that will assist producers in predicting crop yield benefits from controlled tile drainage versus conventionally drained systems under varying weather scenarios.
Soil Health Graduate Scholarship
The Soil Health Graduate Scholarship has been established by OSCIA in partnership with the University of Guelph to support expanded research on soil health. Through generous contributions of OSCIA Founding Partners to their Sustainability Fund, a ‘Soil Health Graduate Scholarship’ of $10,000 per year for five years has been made available to graduate students focused on research in this area. Private funding is supporting this scholarship, launched in 2015 with Past-Presidents’ contributions. More information is available about funding opportunities through OSCIA’s Sustainability Fund.
2016 Recipient: Jordan Graham
Research: Influence of herbaceous biomass crops on soil organic carbon levels in soils across Ontario
Media Release: Soil Health Graduate Scholar Chosen
2017 Recipient: Pedro Ferrari MacHado
Research: Evaluation of the long-term effect of two management practice (tillage and crop rotation) on agricultural nitrous oxide emissions, a potent greenhouse gas.
For more information, visit the Sustainability Fund page.
Grassland Birds and Agriculture
OSCIA has partnered with Bird Ecology and Conservation Ontario (BECO) and Renfrew County farmers to complete research on the effectiveness of set-asides in rotational grazing on the nesting success of grassland birds (specifically bobolink) in rotational grazing systems. This two year research project will be key to developing best management practices that allow for productive farm systems and conservation of grassland birds. This project is funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada through the Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Lands initiative.
Much discussion is underway on how to define a sustainable farm, what factors can be verified, and to what level should they be certified. The Grain Farmers of Ontario are supporting a new marketing effort for non-GMO soys exported to Europe called Roundtable for Responsible Soybeans (RTRS). RTRS originated in Argentina and now has 180 member countries signed up. Ontario and Canadian farm leaders are working diligently to harmonize, consolidate, and minimize the producer and value chain burden, seeking a streamlined and efficient process of verification and certification where required. The goal is to move toward one verification platform for each farm, not for each commodity. The content and assessment process of the very successful Environmental Farm Plan can contribute to future sustainability requirements. ‘Growing Your Farm Profits’ can also contribute to social responsibility and economics. OSCIA participates in the Canadian Round Table for Sustainable Crops to continue to learn about national efforts for sustainability and to contribute to efforts where feasible. The Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) centered in Europe has broad support from the multi-national supply chain of processors and manufacturers. Provision Coalition centered here in Guelph is made up of 11 member associations representing member companies across Canada in the food and beverage manufacturing and input supply sectors. Partnerships are being formed to provide a united voice and bring clarity to the sometimes confusing definitions around sustainability.
For more information on the Sustainable Farm and Food Initiative, visit www.sustainablefarms.ca.
Soil Mesocosms for Precise and Controlled Mass Balance Studies at the Field Scale: A Unique Facility in North America
OSCIA is participating on the Advisory Committee for innovative soils research at the Elora Research Station, lead by Dr. Claudia Wagner Riddel. The proposed outcomes are:
- Science-based management practices for soil ecosystems that will reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, while still providing the ecosystem services Canadian society needs from agriculture;
- Improved models that can predict risk of groundwater contamination and greenhouse gas emissions, under climate change and various management systems;
- Improved understanding of the role of soil microbial communities and their response to warming and nitrogen addition, and estimates of soil resilience under a changing climate for better future soil management.
Selected Past Research
Field-Scale Agricultural Biomass Research and Development Project
Partners: University of Guelph
Ontario Field Crop Residue Survey of Availability and Properties as Potential Feedstocks for the Bioeconomy
Partners: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Quantifying the Physical Characteristics of Good Soil Quality
Partners: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Lake Simcoe Soil Health Improvement Project
Partners: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Keep up to date on our Research Initiatives in our News section.