Most Canadians have seen severe soil erosion. It might be the dramatic images of the dust bowl of the Canadian Prairies replayed as a reminder of the “Dirty Thirties.” Or it might be images of water erosion of severely flooded lands in Eastern Canada. Other than the odd reference of these disasters, it’s likely most people don’t give soil erosion a second thought.
So why should they be concerned about how we are doing as a country on the soil conservation front? National Soil Conservation Week, to be held this year April 19-25, has been set up to drive dialogue across Canada on soil and the importance of managing this often-forgotten resource in a way that can ensure its vitality for today and tomorrow.
“There’s good news and bad news on the soil conservation front,” says Glen Shaw. As executive director of the Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC), he says there is much to celebrate about soil management today. “There’s been a revolution in soil management and growing public interest in how food is grown.
“On the other hand, there is still much to be done to have people “wake up” to the importance of managing the soil in a sustainable manner. It’s why SCCC was a charter supporter of National Soil Conservation Week and why, this year, it remains as important as ever,” says Shaw.
There are several forces today taking action to improve soil management practices, focus public attention on the importance of soil, or both, he says. Canadian producers have been actively fighting soil erosion with new soil management practices such as low-disturbance minimum-or zero-till cropping, systems that have revolutionized the way producers approach the soil. “The industry continues to expand and improve upon these systems,” says Shaw.
Farming and ranching can also be a major factor in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by sequestering carbon. In fact, SCCC is currently testing a greenhouse gas calculator across Canada that will give producers a better way to estimate emissions and develop farming systems that play a larger role in mitigating climate change.
However, there is still farmland that is not being managed effectively, says Shaw. Some soil is being overtilled, some is left exposed to wind and water erosion, some has too many crop nutrients applied and there is much to be learned about managing soil quality in cropping systems. Also, in a world focused on an economy in recession, there is always the risk of soil management becoming lost in the shuffle of what may seem like more immediate concerns.
“That’s why it’s crucial to keep this issue on the public radar through initiatives such as National Soil Conservation Week,” says Shaw. Over the course of National Soil Conservation Week, several “soil champions” will be highlighted on the Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC) website at www.soilcc.ca.
“These people, just a few of many from across Canada, represent the goals and success of the soil conservation movement. In many cases, they showed leadership at a time when certain soil conservation practices were not as popular as they are today. This is our way of saluting those efforts. In the process, it’s a chance to remind producers and all of society that protecting our soil resource has never been more important.”
For the full story, “The good news and bad news on soil conservation,” visit www.soilcc.ca. SCCC is the face and voice of soil conservation in Canada. A national, nongovernmental, independent organization, it was formed in 1987 to provide a non-partisan public forum at the national level for soil conservation. Those interested in fighting soil degradation can become an individual or corporate member of SCCC. Simply visit the website www.soilcc.ca and click on “Join SCCC.”