GFM Network News


Soil Biodiversity: What’s most important? features six characters who come to realize that all of their areas of study are key to a healthy soil ecosystem.

Soil scientists turned children’s authors win acclaim

Benjamin Ellert and Katelyn Lutes know a lot about soil, but knew nothing about writing children’s books. Until they wrote one. And now the two federal soil scientists can add ‘prize-winning children’s author’ to their resumés. The duo from Ag Canada’s Lethbridge research station recently won second prize in an international book contest run by […] Read more

Harvesting hybrid fall rye at Harvest Moon Farm with a strip header on the combine. Residue management is a critical practice on the Hilda-area farm.

Improving soil is a long process involving lots of trial and error

Soil health principles are well known but putting them into practice takes time and patience

Everyone is in favour of improving soil health and there are a lot of recommended practices for doing that. But it’s when the rubber meets the road that things get complicated — and change takes time and patience. That was a major theme of Alberta producer Andy Kirschenman’s virtual presentation at the recent Farm Forum […] Read more


Harvest conditions were largely excellent this year, especially when compared to 2019’s “harvest from hell.” But the flip side is that soil moisture levels in early November this year (on left) are quite a bit different from those a year earlier (at right).

Half the province on the dry side heading into winter

It’s a long time until spring, but soil moisture reserves are sharply lower compared to a year ago

Much of the province’s farmland is dry, according to the latest soil moisture update from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “Soil moisture reserves at freeze-up are highly variable across the province with about 50 per cent of the agricultural areas estimated to have below-average reserves at fall freeze-up,” said the Nov. 8 report. “Large areas that […] Read more

Agronomist Matt Gosling is a big-time advocate of soil testing but doing it right isn’t as straightforward as you might think.

Soil testing should be a cornerstone of your farm, says agronomist

Develop management zones, consider mobile nutrients, and don’t neglect phosphorus, says Matt Gosling

When you talk to Matt Gosling about soil — even if it’s over the phone — you can picture his eyes getting wider as his voice becomes more animated. He considers soil the cornerstone of crop agriculture: A living organism that is constantly shifting, changing and moving. By that logic, then, soil testing must be […] Read more


There are many attributes of healthy soils — and many definitions of what healthy soil is. But producers can cut through the confusion by keeping in mind five principles.

Everyone wants healthy soil… even if they can’t define it

Different farms have different needs, but all fall under the five principles for improving soil health

Soil health has been defined as “the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living system, within ecosystem and land-use boundaries, to sustain biological productivity, maintain the quality of air and water environments, and promote plant, animal, and human health.” The challenge with this poetic definition is that, while it does describe the functional abilities […] Read more

This device, developed by Manitoba Agriculture, compares run-off (collected in the top row of jars) to water that seeps through soil. Management practices can significantly increase the ability of soil to absorb water — but water retention, organic matter, aggregation, soil structure compaction and nutrient cycling are all interconnected, says Farming Smarter researcher Gurbir Dhillon.

Soil health is a whole meal deal, says researcher

The properties of healthy soils are interlinked and good management addresses all of them, says Gurbir Dhillon

Your soil is a little like a supply chain — an interconnected series of chemical, physical, and biological interactions that help make your lands productive and your crops profitable. But just one weak link in that chain can cause problems on your farm. “Soil is irreplaceable, so it has to be sustainable,” said Gurbir Dhillon, […] Read more


‘Report card’ aims to raise awareness of soil health

Handing out marks on topics such as organic matter and cover cropping is meant to raise awareness


Farmers in Western Canada received good marks for increasing organic matter in their soil but a grade of D when it comes to cover cropping. The Soil Conservation Council of Canada released its first national soil health report card this spring — the first attempt to evaluate the state of Canada’s soil since the 1980s. The grades […] Read more

Surface soil moisture is good this year

While some parts of northern Alberta have had too much rain, more than 85 per cent of the province had a surface soil moisture rating of good or excellent at the start of June, according to a provincial crop report. “A late-spring snowmelt and ample moisture during the growing season has resulted in near- or […] Read more


Soil moisture a mixed bag in 2020

Soil moisture reserves remain extremely variable across the province, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry said in its latest update. These range “from one in 12- to 25-year lows through small areas in the central and northeast regions, to one in 50-year highs through the Fox Creek/Edson area and also around Hawk Hills in the northern Peace […] Read more

Many areas in the southern half of Alberta have seen low to extremely low precipitation over the past two years.

Farm season well set up if there’s a normal spring

A warm, dry spring should allow most areas to get off to a good start, says provincial forecast

It will — as usual — all depend on Mother Nature’s mood over the next couple of months, but much of Alberta is in a “desirable condition” when it comes to soil moisture reserves, says the latest provincial soil moisture update. “The greatest reserves are found throughout much of the southern Peace region and along […] Read more