Niagara's agronomists weigh in on tips for soil health through winter

·2 min read

Niagara’s fields will no doubt soon be covered with snow, but just because winter is on its way doesn’t mean soil health needs to fall by the wayside.

Niagara Farmers’ Monthly spoke with locally-based agronomists for tips on how to maintain healthy soil as winter takes hold.

JERRY WINNICKI, CLARK AGRI SERVICE

Ideally farmers will use cover crops to protect their soil over the winter, says Winnicki.

Leftovers from a previous crop can also work to slow water from running off before it has a chance to permeate the soil.

Winnicki’s recommendation is to go with a cereal rye due to effectiveness and cost.

Tillage radish is another option for a cover crop. With a long taproot, it breaks up clay soil well.

MATT KENNES, TWENTY VIEW FARMS

Kennes advocates for crop rotation and has been pushing farmers to plant more winter wheat.

Putting nutrients back into the soil matters, and harvesting soybeans, he said as an example, leaves little plant residue to break down and reintegrate back into the soil.

Rotating crops with winter wheat is showing benefits for soil health through better yields in subsequent years, according to Kennes.

If farmers need another incentive – take a look at healthy commodity prices.

CORINA WARD, TIMAC AGRO CANADA

Ward recommends addressing potassium deficiencies in the fall to give enough time for mineralization and spring availability, but says best management practices suggest avoiding fall applications of phosphorus due to the potential for run-off.

“If applying phosphorus during the fall is necessary, banding it will help prevent run-off, avoiding mass flow during water events,” she said.

Ward also suggests managing fall fertilizer application based on soil tests taken after a crop is removed, when the soil isn’t waterlogged or too arid.

“Considering a drainage plan during the fall and winter months can also be a good idea and can be done by monitoring water pooling during rain events,” she said.

Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week