Soil Health in Ontario

Soil is a vital natural resource and the foundation of agricultural production. The many benefits of a healthy soil are important - underpinning the long-term sustainability of the farm operation, our agri-food sector and our environment.

What is a healthy agricultural soil? Essentially it refers to a soil's ability to support crop growth without becoming degraded or otherwise harming the environment.

While a soil can be degraded through particular practices, the good news is that many best management practices (BMPs) can build back and safeguard soil health.

Developing a provincial soil strategy

Public consultations on 'New Horizons: Ontario's Draft Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy' have concluded.

The ministry is now reviewing the feedback received on the draft soil strategy, which was available for public comment on the Environmental Registry from November 1 to December 31, 2017.

The development of the final soil strategy will be informed by the input provided by farmers, Indigenous participants and stakeholders via written submissions and during public engagement events held in communities around the province.

The final soil strategy will be released in 2018.

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: 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: 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: AF189 - Winter Cover Crops

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
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 05 April 2017
Last Reviewed: 12 January 2018