Local mentors share cover crop knowledge

Posted: Wednesday, May 17, 2023
A photo of Ontario Soil Network and Maitland Conservation logos for Cover Crop Network 2023 Pilot Program.

Maitland Conservation, Ontario Soil Network partner on pilot project to help local agricultural producers to 'cover-crop with confidence' as local mentors guide their peers about on-farm best management practices such as cover crops

Maitland Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA) and the Ontario Soil Network (OSN) are partnering to pilot a project that will enable agricultural producers to learn directly from other local, innovative producers.

The project partners will invite small groups of farmers to learn about best management practices (BMPs), such as cover crops, from local mentors in the agricultural industry.

On-farm visits will begin in June 2023.

If you’re a rural landowner in the MVCA watershed, please reach out for the chance to be included in this network and share the opportunity to learn from our local leaders.

Email Maitland Conservation to find out more: outreachtech@mvca.on.ca

Read the complete article here:

The pilot project will include peer-to-peer discussions and on-farm visits to those participating in this opportunity.

The farmer mentors will share strategies that are "proving their weight in gold" to conserve and protect soil health, water quality, and productivity.

Planting cover crops is not the only recommended best management practice (BMP) but it is the network's focus for 2023.

Cover crops is a best practice that provides a number of benefits to the producer and to local soil and water. Those benefits include increased organic matter, increased nutrient holding capacity, soil porosity, reduced erosion, less chemical runoff, and less soil compaction. 

The pilot project will provide local farmers with the chance to learn from, and ask questions of, other farmers with years of personal experience. These local mentors will share their personal motivation and the benefits and challenges of cover crops.

There are five local cover crop mentors who are taking part.

The mentors are:

  • Alan Willits, of Wingham
  • Gerard Grub, of Walkerton
  • Joel Brodie, of Brucefield
  • Thomas Farrell, of Kincardine
  • Tyler Papple, of Seaforth

Read the full article, as text, below:

Cover Cropping with Confidence

Local mentors to guide you through on-farm BMPs

A community based organization dedicated to providing leadership to protect and enhance local water, forests and soil.”

– Mission Statement, Maitland Valley Conservation Authority

Farmers talking to farmers, using the strength of the network to support lasting adoption of sustainable practices, for an environmentally and financially sound future.”

– Mission Statement, Ontario Soil Network

Maitland Conservation (MVCA) and the Ontario Soil Network (OSN) are partnering to pilot a project that will enable agricultural landowners to learn directly from their friendly, neighbourhood, innovative ag producers.

Through on-farm visits and discussions, small groups of farmers will be invited to learn about practices that are proving their weight in gold for these ag mentors, working in conjunction to conserve and protect soil health and productivity in Ontario.

Cover crops are not the only Best Management Practice (BMP) that we encourage adopting, however, this will be our network’s focus for 2023. Cover crops are a terrific “catch all” BMP with a combination of amazing benefits including increasing organic matter, nutrient holding capacity, and soil porosity, and reducing erosion, chemical runoff, and the effects of soil compaction. Cover cropping is sweeping Ontario’s agricultural land for one simple reason: It works!

It would be simple to “impart wisdom” on the masses and hope for the best, but we recognize that there is a desire to connect with farmers that have years of personal experience. Our mentors will share their motivation to implement cover cropping, its benefits, its challenges, and give support to enable others to cover crop with confidence. Alan, Gerard, Joel, Thomas, and Tyler have all generously offered to share their knowledge and experience in cover crops.

These mentors are local and share so many of the same barriers that you might! A similar soil type, topography, the same weather events, and, therefore, timing of planting, harvesting, spraying, etc. Someone that lives in the same community, county, or watershed, and has knowledge of grants that are suitable and available to help support your conservation efforts. Someone who can share connections of local suppliers or Certified Crop Advisors. The benefits of this peer-to-peer network knows no property line and MVCA and OSN are proud and eager to help facilitate the connection and knowledge sharing that this pilot program will offer.

Without further ado, meet our local cover crop heroes:

Alan Willits (Wingham, Ontario)
• No-till soy and wheat crops, strip-till corn crops
• Cereal rye cover crops
• Using SWAT mapping to improve land management

Gerard Grub (Walkerton, Ontario)
• Interseeding rye into corn, red clover after wheat
• Strip-Till corn & No-till wheat and soybeans for 22 years

Joel Brodie (Brucefield, Ontario)
• Livestock & corn, soy, wheat rotation
• Minimum tillage
• Interseeding corn, wheat crops are cover cropped for grazing livestock

Thomas Farrell (Kincardine, Ontario)
• Dairy farmer with corn, soy, wheat rotation
• Multi-species cover cropping for 6 years
• No-till/ minimum till for 20 years

Tyler Papple (Seaforth, Ontario)
• Corn, Soy, Wheat rotation
• Implementing multi-species biostrip cover crops