Cover Crops Doing Well in Huron County

Posted: Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Second year of Huron County Clean Water Project’s cover crops incentive category surpasses surprising success of first year

Program delivery staff invite Huron residents to call, saying grant application is straightforward – with most application forms completed over phone

Cover crops are turning heads in Huron County, whether it’s a crop no one has seen before, or it’s a colourful field with sunflowers or crimson clover. The County of Huron is helping agricultural producers to adopt these new practices to conserve soil through an incentive program.

Producers jumped on board in a big way in 2015 when the Huron County Clean Water Project introduced a cover crop incentive category. Farmers in Huron County then outdid themselves in 2016 by planting even more cover crops with support of the county program. The county-funded program provided support for 71 completed cover crop planting projects for a total of 4,637 acres in the first year of the cover crop category. That was a pretty successful first year, according to staff, and the next year was even better. Huron’s farmers completed 81 cover crop planting projects in 2016 and planted more than 6,000 acres with grant support from the county program. There has been more than $100,000 provided for cover crop incentives over the incentive category’s first two years in Huron County. The total project value is more than that.

The cover crop incentive category is now back for its third year. A phone call or email to the conservation authority is all it takes to get an application started, according to staff delivering the program. Most application forms can be completed over the phone. Grants are $10 per acre to a maximum of $1,000 per farm operation per year. The cover crop mix needs a minimum of three species and the field must have a minimum 50 per cent residue before next year’s crop is planted.

What’s above the ground is eye-catching but the roots below the ground are also doing their job. “Cover crops help to improve soil structure, increase organic matter, prevent erosion, maintain topsoil, protect water quality, and help to make food production more sustainable over the long term,” said Kate Monk, Manager of Stewardship, Land and Education at Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA). While most producers plant cover crops after wheat harvest, an increasing number plant after soybeans or into standing corn. Wherever it fits into the rotation, the practice is catching on quickly in Huron County. “Cover crops help protect soil from erosion from heavy rains and they work well with windbreaks year-round,” said Doug Hocking, Water Quality Specialist at Maitland Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA).

The Huron County Clean Water Project is also focusing on erosion control projects this year. “Projects to control erosion provide many benefits such as preserving topsoil, keeping nutrients on the land and out of creeks, and they provide economic benefits as well,” according to Monk.

People in Huron County are applying for $5,000 grants to help with the costs of erosion control projects such as berms and inlets. Nearly 200 erosion control projects have received grants since 2004. The berms reduce erosion in low draws by holding water behind an earthen berm for a short period of time and releasing it slowly through a tile.

The Huron County Clean Water Project provides grants for 16 categories of water quality projects. Landowners and community groups in Huron County have completed almost 2,400 projects over the past decade with the county support. The total value of those projects is more than $9.4 million. That’s good for water quality and good for the economy, according to staff delivering the program.

The county program has had more than ten years of success but staff say they aren’t relaxing. They want to build on the foundation of success by encouraging more projects by more people. The Huron County Clean Water Project 2017 campaign to raise public awareness and encourage new projects includes promotional postcards, print and broadcast media, and a social media campaign. Stewardship staff from Maitland Valley and Ausable Bayfield conservation authorities will also be promoting grants from the county program at the International Plowing Match and Rural Expo in Walton from September 19 - 23, 2017. “The people of Huron County should be very proud of all they have accomplished in more than ten years of projects supported by the Huron County Clean Water Project,” said Hocking. “We are increasing promotion starting this summer because we want to keep the momentum going to benefit water quality for everyone.”

To learn about grant rates and eligible projects you are invited to phone Maitland Conservation at 519-335-3557 or Ausable Bayfield Conservation at 519-235-2610 or toll-free 1-888-286-2610. You may also find out more online at or or

Huron County residents have, with support of Huron County Clean Water Project: fenced cattle out of 20 kilometres of streams; planted 700 acres of trees; established 150 kilometres of windbreaks; upgraded 366 private wells; decommissioned 506 unused wells; decommissioned 91 liquid manure storages; completed 59 Forest Management Plans; completed 643 tree planting projects; completed 192 erosion control projects; and planted more than 10,000 acres of cover crops in the first two years of the cover crop incentive category.

The Huron County Clean Water Project provides grant support for water quality projects in a number of categories including: Cover Crop Incentives; Erosion Control Measures; Special Projects; Living Snow Fences; Clean Water Diversion; Fragile Land Retirement; Livestock Fencing; Manure Storage Decommissioning; Community Projects; Forest Management Plans and Woodlot Enhancement; Composting Toilets; Wellhead Protection; Well Decommissioning; Stewardship Guide Implementation; Wetland Restoration Incentive Program; and Municipal Wellhead Protection Area Reforestation Projects.

Backgrounder – Huron County Clean Water Project

County landowners, residents and community groups have completed more than 2,384 projects since 2004 thanks to county support through the Huron County Clean Water Project.

People in Huron County have completed water quality projects valued at almost $9.5 million with about one quarter of that coming from Huron Clean Water Project grants. Ben Van Diepenbeek is chairman of the project review committee. He said the success has been possible because county council and ratepayers have shown their support for water quality, because the two conservation authorities have been able to work closely with residents to make it easy to apply for and complete projects, and because individual farmers, rural landowners, and community groups have shown their commitment by completing projects. “For every dollar invested by the county, another three and a half dollars’ worth of work gets done thanks to the additional contributions of landowners and other funding programs,” he said.

The Huron Clean Water Project is funded by the County of Huron. Service delivery is provided by the Maitland Valley and Ausable Bayfield conservation authorities. Landowners may call by phone to apply. Phone Maitland Conservation at 519-335-3557 or Ausable Bayfield Conservation at 519-235-2610 or toll-free 1-888-286-2610. For more information visit,, or

The County of Huron is providing $400,000 in funding support in 2017 for projects in Huron County that project local water quality. These projects help to protect the health of soil, water, and people. The landowner and community projects supported by this initiative help to keep bacteria, chemicals, and nutrients out of creeks, rivers, groundwater, and Lake Huron.

Projects by community groups and landowners have helped to protect Lake Huron and also water that is underground in aquifers. That groundwater is the source of water for private wells and municipal wells for many of our homes, farms, villages and towns, and businesses in Huron County.

The Huron County Clean Water Project provides up to 50 per cent grant support for projects in categories that include: erosion control; tree planting; cover crops; manure storage decommissioning; wetlands; watercourse fencing; well decommissioning; wellhead protection; composting toilets; forest management plans and woodlot enhancement. Funding from the county program can be combined with other cost–share programs and landowner contributions.

Keeping soil on farm fields and out of drains, rivers, and the lake is a major part of the program through grants for berms, cover crops and tree planting. The program has cost-shared nearly 200 erosion control projects over the years to keep soil on the fields and out of drains and rivers. Berms and inlets are designed to collect runoff during rainfall events and release it over a 24-hour period. This reduces erosion further downhill and allows sediment to settle out in the basin behind the berm.

Some agricultural producers tried out cover crops for the first time with the support of the Huron Clean Water Project. Some were traditional cover-crop mixes but the cash incentive allows people to try some new multi-species mixes. Cover crops can help to reduce soil erosion that occurs when there are no crops actively growing on the fields but cover crops also build soil organic matter, improve soil structure, and increase infiltration which reduces surface runoff and promote nitrogen fixation. The county project provides $10 per acre as an incentive up to a maximum of 100 acres. Plantings must include at least three species and residue must remain on the surface until the spring.

The program has helped with almost 900 projects to protect groundwater by providing grants to decommission unused wells or upgrading the casing on existing wells.

The Huron County Clean Water Project is celebrating more than ten years of providing grants which have helped county residents to do more than 2,384 projects to improve water quality. Grants from the County of Huron, through the Huron Clean Water Project, have helped residents to plant more than 700 acres of trees; complete 643 tree planting projects; fence cattle out of more than 20 kilometres of streams; plant more than 150 kilometres of windbreaks; have 91 liquid manure storages decommissioned; complete 59 forest management plans; upgrade 366 private wells; complete 192 erosion control projects; and decommission 506 unused wells.

People in Huron County have completed water quality projects valued at more than $9 million with about one quarter of that coming from Huron Clean Water Project grants.

  • The ratio of total reported value to grants paid is more than 3.5 to 1 – that means for every dollar the County of Huron has invested an additional $3.50 or more has been spent on environmental projects thanks to contributions from landowners and other sources (for example, other funding programs).

  • Conservation authority delivery staff complete the paperwork required and this makes things easy for landowners to take part

  • All landowners in Huron County are eligible to apply for grants through Huron County Clean Water Project

  • No pre-qualification workshops or courses are required to submit an application and receive a grant payment

  • Funding to landowners can sometimes be combined with other cost-share programs, when other programs are available

County of Huron Clean Water Project – Completed Projects (2004 - 2017)

Total reported value of completed projects

$9.5 million

Number of completed projects


Fenced streams (km)


Trees planted (acres)


Tree planting projects


Windbreaks planted (km)


Wells upgraded


Wells decommissioned


Erosion control projects completed


Cover crops planted (acres) in first two years

of cover crop incentive category


Decommissioned liquid manure storages