National Newswatch

Study should look at the state of all soils in Canada.


Ottawa—An examination of the state of Canada’s soils by the Senate agriculture committee is long overdue and should be closely followed by the agrifood community, says Rene Van Acker, Dean of the Ontario Agriculture College at the University of Guelph.

He said the study, led by Senator Rob Black, “is very much needed and timely. It fits some key agendas including agricultural productivity and the role of soils in reducing the impact of climate change.” Enhancing Canada’s soils will improve the country’s ability to increase food production to help feed the growing global population.

A tremendous amount of research on soil done in recent years will provide plenty of data to inform the committee’s deliberations, he said. Growing consumer interest in where their food comes from and how it is produced will include information on the health of the soil used in its production.

Angela Bedard-Haughn, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan, agreed the study is long overdue. Soil health is important for controlling climate change and regulating water levels.

“Everyone is worried about food security,” she said. “We need to learn more about all that contributes to soil health.” Soil mapping is important as are assessments of the amount of carbon being stored in the ground. “We need to get as much information as we can. We have to look at all our soils or we will always be guessing.”

Susan Wood-Bohm, Distinguished Fellow of the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute, who has worked with Black on soil reports, said, “This study reflects an encouraging commitment to a complex and critical topic, the results of which will undoubtedly play a central role in advancing the sustainability and prosperity of the Canadian agriculture and food system. We are deeply appreciative of his leadership toward developing a better understanding of Canadian soils.”

Brendan Byrne, Chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario, lauded Black’s long-standing dedication to soil health and tireless championing of sustainability in agriculture. “This study highlights the importance of partnership when it comes to ensuring that the future of farming and climate-smart innovation will remain a priority for our decision and policy makers.”

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture said the farm community is the chief steward and manager of the precious soil resources needed to grow food for both Canada and the world. “An updated study to understand the state of soils in Canada methods to preserve or enhance soil health would be greatly beneficial.”

Grain Growers of Canada said it appreciates the willingness of senators to give the issue due consideration, and looks forward to engaging with the committee in its work. “Canada’s grain growers care deeply about the land they live and work on, and the health of their soil is of paramount importance, now, and for generations to come.”

GGC has launched its Road to 2050 climate solutions initiative “that will propose a path forward focused on innovation, research and beneficial management practices that will enhance soil quality, improve carbon sequestration, reduce emissions, while boosting productivity. Farmers are proud of their track record of sustainable production, and recognize the potential crop land holds in terms of soil health, water management, and carbon sequestration.”

Urban soil science has to be an important topic, Bedard-Haughan said. “We need to put together all the information we have, and then we can work at filling in the gaps.”

Van Acker agreed that the Senate study should include all soils in the country not just those used in food production.

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