GFM Network News


Researcher Prem Pokharel found that wheat yield was higher in soil with added biochar made from manure and wood chips rather than from the untreated products.

Harnessing the power of the rhizosphere

Biochar — heat-treated organic material — can give the root zone a boost

Reading Time: 3 minutes Have you ever noticed how lush the crabgrass can get around an old firepit? It’s a small yet compelling example of the benefit that burnt wood residue can have on plant growth. But there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye in that interchange between plant, charcoal, soil and air, and Prem Pokharel […] Read more

Researchers are assessing the benefits of crops seeded into potato hills, similar to this nurse crop in carrots.

Call in a nurse. A “nurse” crop that is

A second crop planted along with potatoes protects the soil and boosts yields

Reading Time: 3 minutes Recent years have seen increased attention on the health of the soil used in potato production, and attempts to bring potatoes into longer rotations with other crops. In the Maritimes, seed companies are promoting soybeans or corn as rotational options and McCain has developed one- and two-year multi-species cover crop blends to help boost organic […] Read more


Dallas Timmerman uses a Leon scraper to put topsoil back on his eroded and degraded hilltops. He also adds manure. These measures don’t take a lot of time and have led to a large yield increase on those acres.

Timmerman trains the Tiger Hills of Treherne

A Manitoba farmer has seen major yield improvement by recapping his hills with topsoil from his lower land

Reading Time: 5 minutes Dallas Timmerman farms in the Tiger Hills around Treherne, Man., and sometimes those tigers need training. “We have a lot of hills and sometimes you need to be aggressive with them,” he says. Timmerman’s chair and whip are a Leon scraper and Versatile 4WD. He started training his hills over a decade ago, working on […] Read more

Soil micronutrients get a closer look

There’s a growing realization that soil fertility means more than just N, P and K

Reading Time: 5 minutes Some days, it’s hard to keep track of the latest word on soil health and fertility. One minute the word on sulphur is that it’s no longer a secondary nutrient and that’s it right up there with nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. The next, we’re hearing that boron or molybdenum levels need more attention. According to […] Read more


“I believe we can reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides by bio-based fertilizers and pesticides.” – Dr. Ze-Chun Yuan, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

The next green revolution

In this Ontario lab, bacteria are working to drive nutrient uptake and accelerate crop growth

Reading Time: 4 minutes Scientists are delving deeper into the soil in hope of finding that next innovation to boost yields while enhancing soil health and reducing pollution concerns. And it seems they’re onto something. Or, better yet, some things. In particular, a scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has looked inside decomposing corn roots in southern Ontario […] Read more

A clover cover crop stretches upward from the stubble.

Finding the value of cover crops for Western Canada

Cover crops are now standard practice farther south in the U.S., but do they have the same results on the shorter-season Prairies?

Reading Time: 3 minutes When Yvonne Lawley wrote her research proposal for a study of cover crops, she was specific about the wording of the title: Testing the cover crop hypothesis across Prairie Canada. It’s the word “hypothesis” that grabs you. What could be theoretical about cover crops? Some farmers have been using them for decades to help build […] Read more


The traditional choice for cover crops has been red clover underseeded to winter wheat, but that’s changing.

Re-setting the mind-set on cover crops

Research is shining new light on when — and why — to make cover crops part of your routine field management

Reading Time: 8 minutes Much of what is known about specific practices in agriculture has been constructed then modified and sometimes deconstructed altogether. It’s an ongoing process that applies to virtually every cropping practice, from the use of moldboard plows to no till and from planting depth to fertility rates. Cover crops have been studied extensively across many parts […] Read more

Treatments included three yield zones and four N fertilizer rates — 0, 50, 100 and 150 per cent N based on soil test.

Zone-by-zone nitrogen application may not pay

A three-year study finds surprisingly little response to extra nitrogen in both high- and low-producing areas

Reading Time: 3 minutes A new Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada study suggests producers should take soil test nitrogen prescriptions by management zone with a grain of salt. They don’t necessarily reflect what researcher Alan Moulin calls the “supplying power” of the soil, and since fields vary, there’s no one-size-fits-all prescription to meet crop nutrient demands. This doesn’t mean producers […] Read more


A researcher and soon-to-be author wanted to know what’s getting in the way of healthier soil. What she heard from farmers, industry and academia is it’s not a lack of technology but a lack of political will and financial support.

Where Ontario’s soil health strategy falls short

Farmers understand the crucial role of soil health for feeding the world. So why is it such a struggle to get support for that goal?

Reading Time: 6 minutes Last fall, Dr. Sarah Rotz, then working at the University of Guelph, wrote an article with Guelph crop scientist Dr. Ralph Martin and York University agri-food policy researcher Dr. Rod MacRae to draw attention to what they perceive as shortcomings in the Ontario government’s Soil Health Strategy. It’s a topic Rotz had been studying for […] Read more

Efforts to improve soil health are set back by long-standing and destructive soil management regimens.

Real work on soil health needs to be done

Fine speeches about our soil make us all feel good, but there's an increasing urgency for wider adoption

Reading Time: 5 minutes Soil health has received considerable attention in recent decades. There have been many champions who have promoted the benefits of good soil, farm organizations that have mounted campaigns to encourage its development and even Senate committees trying to help government recognize the urgency surrounding it. Yet reluctance to raise the bar on the subject remains. […] Read more