Soil Health in Ontario

Healthy soil is the foundation of Ontario's agri-food sector. The local foods Ontarians enjoy - more than 200 commodities - are grown on Ontario's rich agricultural lands.

Many best management practices (BMPs) can build and safeguard soil health. That's why we're working to protect the province's soils to ensure that they remain healthy and productive for future generations.

Provincial Soil Strategy

Ontario worked with stakeholders and members of the Soil Health Working Group to create a provincial soil strategy to help grow and sustain the province's strong agricultural sector, while protecting the environment and adapting to a changing climate.

The New Horizons: Ontario's Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy is a long-term framework that sets a vision, goals and objectives for soil health and conservation in Ontario from 2018 to 2030. It provides actions to achieve its vision, goals and objectives, and methods to measure progress.

The Role of Healthy Soil in a Changing Climate

Agriculture and climate are directly linked - anything that has a significant effect on our climate will influence farm production. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change are global concerns, and agriculture can be part of the solution.

BMPs that improve soil health can also help lower GHG emissions, reduce phosphorus loss from fields to surface water, and improve resilience to drought or excessively wet conditions. Healthy soil - an essential component of a healthy environment - is the foundation upon which a sustainable agriculture production system is built.

Best Management Practices: AF151 - Soil Health in Ontario (PDF)

Image of the Soil Health in Ontario bookThis publication provides a visual overview of the many best management practices that build back and safeguard soil health, along with soil health basics and challenges to soil quality.

Best Management Practices: AF153 - Adding Organic Amendments (PDF)

Image of Addming Organic Amendments bookIncreasing the level of your organic matter in your soil will improve soil health, resilience to degradation and productivity. This factsheet describes the nature and benefits of soil organic matter, sources of organic matter and best management practices (BMPs) for adding organic amendments to the soil.

Best Management Practices: AF155 - Buffer Strips

Image of Buffer Strips BookThis factsheet explains the benefits of buffer strips, considerations for design and planning, and tips for establishment and maintenance.

Best Management Practices: AF163 - Cropland Retirement (PDF)

Image of Cropland Retirement BookSome agricultural soils are so inherently unproductive or challenged from past degradation that they are not suitable for intensive cropping. This factsheet looks at the problems with cropping marginal or fragile lands, the benefits of and options for cropland retirement, suitable planting types, planning steps and how-to tips.

Best Management Practices: AF165 - Erosion Control Structures

Image of Erosion Control Structures bookErosion control structures are designed to management runoff from cropland during intense storm events. This factsheet explains their role unique role in soil management, different types and their specific functions, how to get started, and design, management and maintenance considerations.

Best Management Practices: AF167 - Field Windbreaks (PDF)

Image of Field Windbreaks BookField windbreaks and shelterbelts are vegetative barriers that reduce wind and water erosion, while improving crop yields and protecting sensitive crops from wind damage. This factsheet provides an overview for designing, planting and maintaining field windbreaks around croplands.

Best Management Practices: AF169 - Inter-seeding Cover Crops (PDF)

Image of Inter-seeding Cover CropsInter-Seeding Cover Crops is a 16 page booklet that describes different ways to inter-seed cover crops, how they benefit soil health and crop productivity, as well as tips to handle the challenges that occur with changes in crop management.

Best Management Practices: AF171 - Mulch Tillage (PDF)

Image of Mulch TillageConservation cropping and tillage systems have been developed and refined over the last 40 years to help keep precious topsoil in place and promote soil health. These systems adjust management, inputs and hardware to grow crops while conserving soil and water - an achievable goal. This factsheet explains mulch tillage systems, which are well suited for heavier soils, high crop residues like corn, cover crops, plowdowns, and organic amendments.

Best Management Practices: AF173 - No-Till for Soil Health

Image of No-Till for Soil Health BookThis factsheet describes types of no-till systems, their benefits and challenges, and tips for successful implementation.

Best Management Practices: AF179 - Inter-seeding Cover Crops (PDF)

Image of Inter-seeding Cover Crops BookResidue Management is a 12 page booklet that provides an overview of the problem with bare soils, why residues work and best practices for managing residue in various crops.

Best Management Practices: AF181 - Rotation of Agronomic Crops

Image of Rotation of Agronomic Crops BookThis factsheet compares continuous cropping and crop rotation systems, outlines what to consider if you want to move to crop rotation, lists tips to making it work, and describes provven crop rotation combinations.

Best Management Practices: AF187 - Wind Strips (PDF)

Image of Wind StripsThis 12 page booklet explains the impact of wind erosion on soil health and productivity, explores options for wind control, describes types of wind strips, and offers planning, design, and maintenance tips.

Best Management Practices: AF189 - Winter Cover Crops (PDF)

Image of Winter Cover Crops BookThis factsheet describes the benefits, challenges, types and opportunities for growing cover crops in post-harvest conditions in Ontario.

Best Management Practices: AF191 - Soil Erosion by Water (PDF)

Best Management Practices: AF191 - Soil Erosion by WaterField slope gradient and length, rainfall, surface water runoff, tillage and cropping practices and soil type all play a role in a field's risk for erosion by water. This publication offers best practices and tips for keeping soil where it should be.

How do I get a copy?

Hardcopies of publications can be ordered through ServiceOntario

Online at ServiceOntario Publications

By phone through the ServiceOntario Contact Centre
Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
416-325-3408 (TTY)
1-800-668-9938 Toll-free across Canada
1-800-268-7095 TTY Toll-free across Ontario

Order in person through a public access terminal available at ServiceOntario Centres located across the province.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300