Soil health becomes global concern

If soil health isn’t top of mind for you, it should be. Canada has some of the world’s most viable and productive farmland.

This farmland is where you make your living. It sustains our rural communities. It grows our food.

While Canada is a world leader in improving our soils, further steps are necessary to make lasting change. That is why we need action now, because if we fail our soils, we fail at protecting our most vital resource and achieving a more sustainable future.

In recent years, the issue of soil health has become a major topic around the world. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations declared 2015 the International Year of Soils, and in that year, the Paris climate deal included a commitment to increase soil carbon by 0.4 percent annually. Last December, nearly 200 nations reached consensus on a more detailed framework to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement. Nationally, A Food Policy for Canada identifies soil conservation as a major theme, and Dominic Barton’s Unleashing the Growth Potential of Key Sectors report highlights Canada’s agriculture industry as one with massive potential to improve the nation’s economy. Senator Rob Black further spoke to his colleagues this fall on the need for action on soil health in Canada. Healthy soil and science-based agriculture are critical in achieving Canada’s economic and environmental goals.

While soil health has been on the global political agenda, this has not translated into tangible commitments on the ground. In fact, many provincial soil conservation groups have dismantled or struggle to stay afloat due to decreased financial support. Does this mean that soil is no longer a priority? As the backbone of the agriculture industry, it is time to put soil first.

The future holds new challenges. Canada’s soils need to grow more food to feed an expanding world population. They need to sequester carbon, reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, crops not traditionally considered “no till” are expanding acreage, placing increased pressure on soil health. New technologies such as vertical and strategic tillage as well as older practices such as discing and cultivating leave many farmers wondering what is best for their soil and their livelihoods.

The Soil Conservation Council of Canada is a leader in soil health. We are committed to working with governments, environmental groups, scientists, agronomists and farmers to raise the profile of soils in support of Canada’s agriculture industry. This work to improve soil health is only enhanced by the backing of our members and partners.

Cassandra Cotton and Paul Thoroughgood are directors on the Soil Conservation Council of Canada.

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