With planting season in sight, Ontario farmers are turning their attention the weather and their soil. Though they can’t do much about the weather, soil’s fate is in the farmer’s hands as they plant record numbers of soybeans in land that has been taken care of to ensure it can repeatedly produce a crop. Farmers use a number of practices to sustain the soil’s ability to produce crops. If they’re going to work it hard, year after year, they have to look after it.
Soil’s importance was underlined when the United Nations has declared 2015 the International Year of the Soil. Why’s that? “The multiple roles of soils often go unnoticed,” says José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. “Soils don’t have a voice, and few people speak out for them. They are our silent ally in food production.” Well, maybe more people will start speaking out for them shortly, or at least trying to tell the world more about them. The food and agriculture organization and the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists, which includes members from Canada, have just teamed up to create a new award that recognizes excellence in global food security reporting.
Canadian farmers appreciate the vital role of soil on their farm. Across the country, the third week in April, when planting is in sight, is deemed National Soil Conservation Week in Canada. Ontario soil conservation pioneer Don Lobb says many of the great civilizations and powerful nations declined in part because their capacity to grow food declined. People moved on to new frontiers and fresh soil. Now, he says, there are no new frontiers. Conserve that soil. We cannot afford to repeat past mistakes