Cover crop project to improve water quality begins in Ontario
The project will assess how effective cover crops are at reducing phosphorus losses. Photo courtesy of Upper Thames River CA.
The Canadian Agricultural Partnership has granted $500,000 for The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) staff and local certified crop advisors to work closely with landowners and plant cover crops within a subwatershed of Medway Creek in southwestern Ontario.
The project will assess how effective cover crops are at reducing phosphorus losses on a large scale. Water quality will be monitored to determine the impact of cover crops on nutrient loads in the creek.
Cover crops, which are grown in rotation between cash crops, can protect the soil against erosion, improve soil health, and retain nutrients to supply to subsequent crops. Previous data, collected from agricultural plot research, has indicated that cover crops may reduce winter and spring nutrient loss in runoff.
"Most of the phosphorus losses from agricultural fields are happening over the non-growing season," said Brad Glasman, conservation services manager at the UTRCA. "Implementing best management practices that target this period is crucial for improving water quality in the Thames River and Lake Erie."
Tatianna Lozier, agricultural soil and water quality technician at the UTRCA, explained, "Cover crops protect and stabilize the soil, and we feel they can play an important role in reducing phosphorus losses."
The upper Medway Creek watershed will host this project over the next three years. UTRCA staff will work with farmers in the western part of the study area to plant cover crops on approximately 2,000 acres of farmland.
This project builds on previous stewardship work in the upper Medway watershed and results may have broad applications across the Great Lakes basin.
This project is funded in part through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of the Partnership in Ontario.