GFM Network News


Soil scientist David Lobb has criss-crossed the country to talk about soil health, but the issue isn’t getting nearly the attention it deserves, says the University of Manitoba professor.

Soil degradation the forgotten issue

Reducing tillage and summerfallow hasn’t fixed a problem that is costing farmers billions every year

Soil degradation in Canada is causing a huge economic loss — but few people are paying attention. That includes farmers, even though degraded soil is significantly reducing their yields, according to University of Manitoba soil scientist David Lobb. “Soil erosion accounts for a loss of about 10 per cent,” he said. “Farmers are only getting […] Read more

Greg Paranich of Performance Seeds in Blackfalds describes some of the advantages of cover crops.

Clearwater County aims to cook up successful cover crop recipes

Cover crops offer many benefits but what’s the right mix of grasses, brassicas, and legumes?

Clearwater County has started experimenting with cover crops, and outlined some of their benefits during its recent West County Ag Tour. “It’s a great year to talk about cover crops because in order to maintain our moisture in the soil, we are going to need organic matter, which cover crops build. We are going to […] Read more


Cover crops can get cattle back onto cropland — where they belong, according to one soil health specialist.

Cover crops ‘essential’ to in-field grazing

Producers need to more closely mimic nature to avoid long-term soil health issues, says USDA conservationist

Got cows? On your cropland? Jay Fuhrer certainly hopes so. The soil health specialist believes cropland and large ruminants are a natural fit. He advocates turning animals out of the barn and onto the land whenever possible. “Soils, plants, and animals evolved together,” he said at the recent Dairy Farmers of Manitoba conference. “And we […] Read more

Understanding how plants search out nutrients, and react to weeds and pests could have a huge impact on farming in the coming decades, says biologist JC Cahill.

Listen to your crops — the plants are talking to each other

They’re also ‘foraging’ for nutrients, deciding where to put their roots, and calling for help when under attack

You might think it’s crazy — but plants talk to each other and act in ways that are similar to animals and humans. “Step away from the idea of plants as factories and start to think of plants as individuals,” biological sciences professor JC Cahill told attendees at the Western Canadian Soil Health and Grazing […] Read more


Saskatchewan seed grower Kevin Elmy says cover crops are the future, but admits it’s not an easy system to learn.

COVER CROPS: The potential is huge, but so is the learning curve

Those looking for a one-size-fits-all solution will be disappointed

Looking over at the emptied room that had been packed with attentive farmers a few minutes earlier, cover crops guru Kevin Elmy could only shake his head. “If I had given a talk here five years ago, maybe the front row might have been filled — maybe,” the Saskatchewan farmer said after his FarmTech presentation, […] Read more

Chinook Applied Research Association has launched a soil health lab to evaluate and improve soil health, said soil health specialist Yamily Zavala at a Foothills Forage and Grazing Association forage tour in mid-October.

When it comes to healthy soil, you want to lump it

Soil aggregation is critical — in several different ways — to growing healthy crops

Think water is your biggest limiting factor when growing a crop? Think again. “Soil aggregation is the most important constraint that we have,” said Yamily Zavala, crop and soil health management specialist at Chinook Applied Research Association. “In order for a soil to function properly, we have to have all the soil processes — physical, […] Read more


Young graziers need to do more with less, and cover crop cocktail mixes are a way they can do that, says grazier Graeme Finn.

Cocktail cover crops: This ain’t your grandad’s grazing system

Innovative producers, especially younger ones, are looking to cover 
crop cocktail mixes to build soil health and get more production per acre

Nearly 150 people — some from as far away as Manitoba — converged on a farm near Hardisty recently to learn more about cover crop cocktail mixes. But tour organizer Graeme Finn noticed something a little different about the crowd at the event in late August — it was mainly young farmers. “Young people can’t […] Read more

Good grazing management can get you through a drought

Having diverse life in and on the soil will help get your cattle through a drought year

When drought hits, you can blame Mother Nature — but management practices also come into play. “I don’t want to say that it doesn’t matter what happens with rain and that all drought is man made because of bad management,” said Vermont grazier Abe Collins. “That’s a very extreme position. Sometimes it doesn’t rain, and […] Read more


The rich, deep colour of this soil indicates exactly what healthy 
soil looks like.

The road to better soil health comes from a change in attitude

Spend lots of time digging holes and looking at soil in your fields, says Quebec researcher

Improve your soil health and increased yields and other benefits will follow. But first you need to change your priorities. “How much time do you spend in a year taking care of your tractor?” agricultural engineer Odette Menard asked attendees at last month’s Western Canada Conference on Soil Health. “We spend more time taking care […] Read more

Tillage radishes bring many benefits, but “we’re learning as we go,” says Clearwater County official Annie Bertagnolli.

Tapping into nutrients and tackling compaction with tillage radishes

The forage brassica has big-time potential for rejuvenating tired, compacted pastures — but there’s a learning curve

How effective are tillage radishes in rejuvenating poor soil and pastures? Staff at Clearwater County have been experimenting with tillage radishes to see if their theoretical benefits hold up in the real world. The fast-growing brassica can be used in forages as a cover crop and as feed for cattle; its long taproot can open […] Read more