GFM Network News


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

Dr. Edward Cocking of the University of Nottingham discovered sugarcane bacteria which are now being sold as crop treatment.

Capturing nitrogen from thin air

Has a U.K. scientist found the nitrogen-fixing bacteria we’ve been waiting for? If he has, it could be great news for nitrogen-hungry crops

Reading Time: 5 minutes The air around us and in every nook and cranny between soil particles is 78 per cent nitrogen, yet farmers pay billions per year for N fertilizer. Wouldn’t it be great if we could find efficient, low-cost, hard-working bacteria to convert nitrogen in the air into an available form of N for any crop — […] Read more


“You can only grow so many bushels of corn in a stressed year and that number depends largely on your soil.”

What’s good about soil?

Soil health indicators often relate to properties that you can’t see

Reading Time: 6 minutes We’re planting more cover crops, we’ve got a heightened focus on soil organic matter levels, and now we’re adopting what’s thought to be a relatively new term: soil health indicators. They’re each part of a wave that’s been building, reflecting a renewed interest in the soil as the basis for all crop production. “It’s been […] Read more

Earthworms and their castings are one of the more visible soil health indicators.

Precision ‘agronomy’

Precision ag is rapidly evolving, with an emerging suite of benefits for producers

Reading Time: 7 minutes Has any segment of agri-food changed as much in the past 10 years as precision ag? What is certain is that the science’s power to extrapolate data points, generate better maps, recommend specific courses of action and lead growers to higher revenues is unparalleled. The challenge though is still the same: Where to start? For […] Read more


The CurseBuster side-fractures the soil leaving it relatively undisturbed, even with a cover crop on top.

A change in equipment vs. a change in mindset

Refocusing attention on soil health is the driver behind newer technologies

Reading Time: 4 minutes A number of years ago, Carl Brubacher looked at his soils and realized something had to change. He’d been relying on a full complement of tillage passes and he could sense his topsoil levels were becoming shallower. What he wanted was to find a way to avoid falling into the trap the U.S. has experienced, […] Read more

Fancy soil test kit — researchers used the Canadian Light Source synchrotron in Saskatoon to analyze the biological cycling P goes through in the soil.

Soil tests may not tell the whole story of phosphorus

Research shows “legacy” phosphorus might support crops long after you’ve stopped making applications

Reading Time: 5 minutes Do soil tests accurately reflect how much phosphorus is actually available to plants? A long-term study at the Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre in Swift Current, Sask., suggests they don’t. Research scientist Barbara Cade-Menun is leading a study on continuous wheat plots established in 1967. Until 1995, the plots received both nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer; […] Read more