Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

April 16, 2007 17:52 ET

AAFC: Tip Sheet

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - April 16, 2007) -

National Soil Conservation Week: April 15-21

April 15-21 is Soil Conservation Week in Canada. Soil plays a key role in the health of the environment, and it is also one of the most important resources for producing good crops. Although progress has been made in improving the health of some of our agricultural soils, soil degradation remains a serious concern today. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is actively involved through various programs and initia-tives that help agricultural producers and land managers to conserve soil quality and use it in a sustainable manner.

The Community Pasture Program is the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration's largest and longest-running contribution to soil conservation on the Prairies. Established in the 1930s, it protects marginal land by permanently removing it from cultivation and establishing a permanent grass cover. The pastures are located on a variety of landscapes, and comprise some of the largest remaining blocks of native prairie grasslands in Canada. The program also provides a grazing and breeding service for small producers in need of grazing space.

The National Farm Stewardship Program provides technical and financial assistance to support adoption of beneficial management practices (BMPs) and encourages the use of environmental farm plans (EFPs) to help promote soil conservation activities. No one conservation practice is suited to all situations, and the BMPs may vary from year to year, but the principles behind these practices remain maintaining soil organic matter, managing surface runoff and protecting exposed soil surfaces.

Every year, the PFRA Shelterbelt Centre in Indian Head, Sask., distributes nearly 4 million trees to plant over 460 km of farm shelterbelts and fieldbelts. In the wide open prairie, trees are a valuable resource to conserve soil and prevent wind erosion. By deflecting the wind, the belts create a well-protected zone extending outwards 20 times the height of the trees. By trapping more snow, shelterbelts also help increase crop yields, particularly of less drought-tolerant crops such as canola and alfalfa. They also have the added benefits of providing habitat for wildlife and reducing greenhouse gas levels by absorbing carbon in the atmosphere.

A five-year $110 million program, Greencover Canada helps producers improve grassland management practices, protect water quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance biodiversity and wildlife habitat through four components: land conversion, technical assistance, critical areas, and shelterbelts. The land conversion component supports conversion of environmentally sensitive cropland to perennial cover. The shelterbelt component provides technical and financial assistance to integrate shelterbelts into the agricultural landscape.

GIS mapping for agriculture and the environment

Have you ever flown over your house on-line, using a virtual globe program like Google Earth? It can put the world's geographic information at your fingertips by combining the power of Google Search with satellite imagery, aerial photography and Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. Many other groups and organizations collect geographic informa-tion and allow users to access a wide range of geospatial data on numerous topics, such as water and soil quality and infrastructure, to name a few.

On April 20th, geospatial data-producing organizations, like Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's National Land and Water Information Service, will join with GeoConnections to celebrate Canadian Interoperability Day. This event promotes the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI), showcasing new CGDI-based technology and contributions to date from public and private sector partners. The CGDI provides the standards, protocols and specifi-cations to share and use geospatial data across different systems.

The National Land and Water Information Service is a Web-based service providing on-line geospatial data, tools and expertise on land use, soil, water, climate and biodiversity to help producers, researchers, industry, governments and community groups make responsible land-use decisions for agriculture and the environ-ment. The Service uses standards endorsed by GeoConnections, the national partnership program led by Natural Resources Canada, to evolve and promote the CGDI. The Service's new Web portal can be accessed at

Flexibility of no-till and reduced-till systems ensures long-term success

Having realized the economic and environ-mental benefits of no till and reduced tillage, many producers across Canada have adopted these systems since the mid 1980s. As more producers learn about these benefits, the adoption rate of these systems is expected to continue to increase. However, a recent study by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada suggests that many no-till systems require a degree of flexibility. These systems need to be flexible to incorporate tillage needs to control excessive crop residue and soil moisture, cool soil temperatures, specific weed and pest problems, livestock and manure management, and specialized cropping systems. Despite these constraints, soil specialists conclude that most areas and farming systems should be able to implement reduced-tillage systems.

Contact Information