Fact or Fiction: You can save 1,300 gallons of water by skipping your lunch burger

FactFictonThere’s an infographic floating around on social media. Perhaps you’ve seen it.

It claims you can save 1,300 gallons of water if you:
– don’t flush your toilet for six months, OR
– don’t take a shower for three months, OR
– for lunch today, don’t eat one burger.

Turns out, this is FICTION.

Let’s look at how the cow (behind that burger) really measures up.

Continue reading

Farmers: the original environmentalists

Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day Love Copy

Taking initiative to protect the environment and build the soil

By Treena Hein

John and Grace Kinghorn are shown with two of their environmental initiatives – a double walled fuel tank and some of the trees they’ve planted on their farm.

John and Grace Kinghorn are shown with two of their environmental initiatives – a double walled fuel tank and some of the trees they’ve planted on their farm.

(Woodville) – John Kinghorn grew up with a strong love of the land, and it was that love which called him back to make concrete improvements to his farm and the surrounding area after a very successful career off-farm.

Kinghorn’s ancestral beef and crop operation is located near Woodville, Ontario. He farms about 250 acres with his wife Grace of 52 years. John’s great-grandfather settled the land, and his father continued the tradition. When John was ready to enter the workforce however, he was attracted to an education/work program at General Motors in Oshawa. “Over the years, I was able to be involved in many innovative new ideas and had the opportunity to travel extensively in North America and Europe to explore these ideas and be involved in implementation of some of them,” he recalls. “It was 35 years of a fairy-tale ride in the industrial world for a farm boy.” Kinghorn retired early at the executive level, as Operations Manager of the Oshawa Truck Plant. Continue reading

New irrigation system protects local watershed, reduces water and fertilizer use

By: Lilian Schaer for the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association

A new automated irrigation system is yielding some big savings for an Elgin County nursery – and paying off with environmental benefits too.

Since the system became fully functional this spring, Canadale Nurseries’ water consumption has dropped by 40 per cent, their fertilizer use is down 25 per cent, and they’re using less electricity because their water pumps don’t have to run as many hours each day.

“We are surrounded by residential areas and we wanted to minimize our environmental footprint and maximize irrigation efficiency,” explains nursery manager Robb Parmeter. “We want the water that crosses our property to be the same quality or better when it leaves our property.”

Canadale Nurseries Ltd. is a family-owned business on 110 acres in St. Thomas. They grow and supply a wide variety of plants including ornamental trees, flowering shrubs, evergreens, and perennials to retail customers, independent retail garden centers, and wholesale nurseries across southwestern Ontario.

To improve watering efficiency, they needed to increase their system’s capacity and capability. At the same time, says Robb, they also wanted to reduce production costs, improve the health of their irrigation pond, and better manage their nutrients so they could contribute to the protection of the local Kettle Creek watershed and the surrounding environment.

The solution was the installation of a new automated pumping system that can be controlled electronically – and even remotely via smartphone. That means if it rains during non-work hours, for example, the irrigation system can be turned off without staff having to go to the nursery.

Canadale now has the ability to direct its irrigation to a single zone or multiple zones in the nursery depending on the requirements of each crop. This flexibility in watering, something that wasn’t possible with the previous system, has greatly increased water conservation and efficient water use.

The system can track the amount of rain, sunshine, and outside temperature and adjust irrigation levels accordingly. It is now also possible to water using a method called pulse or cyclical irrigation.

“We have more capacity now so we’re watering faster. The leaf wetness period is shorter, so there is less risk for fungal disease, which equates to a reduction in fungicide use” explains Robb. “And because we now have the ability to pulse water, the growing media absorbs and holds more moisture. This reduces the amount of water running out of the pot, so we have little to no fertilizer leachate, which is another environmental benefit.”

They have also seen improvements in their irrigation pond and their plants are healthier, showing better rooting and better growth than before.

To help make the project a reality, Canadale turned to the Implementation funding assistance program under Growing Forward 2 (GF2), which Robb says was a tremendous help to the nursery.

To prepare for the application process, senior Canadale staff attended numerous seminars on environmental stewardship for nurseries and Great Lakes water quality, completed an Environmental Farm Plan and attended a workshop where they learned about GF2 funding assistance.

“We have wanted to do this for a long time and we’ve been going to seminars about water for four to five years,” explains Robb. “It’s a huge expense from a business standpoint, so we wanted to make sure it was well-researched.”

Doing the necessary research and planning homework is Robb’s key tip for other farm businesses thinking about applying for GF2 cost-share funding through the Implementation program.

Knowing what you’re eligible to apply for will help ensure you can take full advantage of available opportunities and creating a plan with detailed timelines will help make sure a project stays on track, he adds.

“It takes a bit of time to learn the process, but it is definitely worth it,” he says. “This is a great program, so we’ll be applying for other projects as they come up.”

Growing Forward 2 cost-share of up to 35 per cent is available for farm businesses under the Implementation program in six key areas: Environment and Climate Change, Assurance Systems, Market Development, Animal and Plant Health, Labour Productivity Enhancement, and Business and Leadership Development. Implementation uses a merit-based competitive application process.

Cost-share opportunities are also available under the Capacity Building program of GF2 to help off-set expenses related to audits, plans, work shop participation, training costs or consulting work.

Much of the research and preparatory work needed for successful Implementation applications can come out of this step. Capacity Building cost-share is available at 50 per cent and is determined based on set eligibility criteria; there is no merit component to this level of funding.

GF2 is a federal-provincial-territorial initiative aimed at encouraging innovation, competitiveness, market development, adaptability and industry capacity in Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sector. The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association delivers educational workshops and funding assistance supported by GF2 to producers.

More information about GF2 funding opportunities for farmers is available at http://www.ontariosoilcrop.org/en/programs/growing_forward_2.htm or by contacting the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association’s regional program leads at http://www.ontariosoilcrop.org/en/programs/workshop_leaders.htm.

Tips for cost-share funding success:

  • Read the program guide carefully. The Focus Area Project Information Form must also be completed and submitted with the application for Implementation funding assistance. It provides an understanding of risks with the farm operation and the proposed project and supports the evaluation of merit for each project based on set criteria for each BMP.
  • Take time to complete your application; projects are not evaluated on a first come, first serve basis. It can be helpful to fill out an application first in writing before submitting it online.
  • Do the capacity building work to have plans and assessments in place and make sure you submit the relevant documentation with your project application as required.
  • Get the quotes you need or collect invoices – you can still apply for funding for a project that has already been completed as long as the work has been done in the current program year. Each program year ends on March 31.
  • Summarize expected expenses and milestones for the project and provide a concise, clearly written project description that outlines what you’d like to do and how the project will benefit your operation and address identified risk areas.

Riparian Project Funded by SARFIP aims to help erosion control and clean water

By Lilian Schaer for the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association

Susan Chan and Bob Irvine at the pond.

A partnership with a local stewardship organization helped Bob and Gail Irvine leverage habitat development funding from the SARFIP program into a significant wetland development and habitat creation project on their Peterborough-area farm last year.

The story has its beginnings in a project the year before when Irvine, who raises purebred Dorset sheep breeding stock on his 90-acre farm together with his wife Gail, needed a solution for a field that had been wet for many years. With the help of some grant programs, he was able to excavate a pond that improved his field by draining much of the water out of it.

“The eyesore after all these projects in 2012 was the berm around the pond. It was being under-utilized and that’s when we decided we would undertake a pollinator project with plants, shrubs and trees, which develops habitats through creation of a riparian buffer strip,” he explains.

He turned to Sue Chan with Farms at Work, a not for profit project that promotes healthy and active farmland in east central Ontario. She played a key role in bringing the Irvine project to fruition, helping him access additional funds and resources through the members of the Kawartha Farm Stewardship Collaborative, a group of organizations working together to help farmers access technical assistance and stewardship funding.

She also helped secure private donors for some of the plant materials used in the project, as well as growing some herself, and it was Chan who designed the layout for the riparian area around the pond with all the pollinator plants. The total site is approximately three acres in size, which includes the pond in the middle and the buffer strips around it; all the plantings both in and around the pond were chosen for their benefit to pollinators, fish, birds and insects. Blueberries, for example, are great sources of pollen and nectar for bumble bees in early spring, and the fruit can be harvested later in the season.

“We always try to work with models for others to follow so the idea is that this project will become a prototype for other projects in the area in the future,” says Chan, a firm believer in the power of collaboratives to help advance stewardship initiatives.

Irvine is hopeful about the positive impact the project will have, including erosion control and cleaner water as a result of the creation of new habitats in and around the pond, and Chan says the riparian area will definitely benefit the local pollinator population.

“Most of Bob’s property is in pasture and we’ve put in a lot of flowering plants that aren’t typically found in pasture. We’re hoping that we are creating a reservoir of pollinators that can expand their range,” she explains. “Some plants in there, for example, are specialist plants for the specialist pollinators, like Pickerel Weed and a bee that only survives on Pickerel Weed. Others are generalists for all kinds of pollinators.”

“It has become a happy place for our family and grandkids. It has given new life to a marginal area that was just being ignored previously and it has certainly improved the appearance of the berms around the pond. There’s no direct dollar value return to the farmer for doing this but there are other things than dollar signs at the end of the day, like community, health and happiness. Those are all part of being able to sustain a profitable enterprise,” he adds.

SARFIP is a cost-share program delivered by OSCIA and funded by Environment Canada and the Ministry of Natural Resources. The program aims to help farmers adopt Best Management Practices (BMPs) to enhance the farm operation, while supporting local species at risk, improving forests, grasslands, wetlands and wildlife.

SARFIP has been renewed for the 2014-2015 cropping season. To be eligible to participate in SARFIP, Ontario farm businesses must have a completed Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) and an FBRN or equivalent (see program guide). Candidates can then select eligible BMP categories from the SARFIP list that relate to an action identified in their farm’s EFP Action Plan, including improved stream crossings, erosion control work,
and fencing livestock from sensitive areas.

More information about Farms at Work and the Kawartha Farm Stewardship Collective is available here.

Changing the way we approach cover crops

By Micah Shearer-Kudel

Mapleton, Ontario – Sam Bradshaw, Environmental Specialist with Ontario Pork is working with Jake Kraayenbrink, an Arthur area farmer to determine if planting cover crop seeds into growing corn and wheat will improve the establishment of cover crops and protect soil from erosion and nutrient loss during winter months. Greg Stewart, OMAFRA Corn Specialist and Anne Verhallen, OMAFRA Soil Specialist are also involved in the new project.

Ontario’s late fall leaves little or no growing season to establish a cover crop post-harvest. The objective of the Ontario Pork project is to explore cover crop planting techniques into growing crops before they are harvested, so the cover crop is firmly established before winter.

This project is one of 28 Water Adaptation Management and Quality Initiative (WAMQI) projects improving water use of agricultural water resources and to improve management of nutrients.

The project consists of planting cover crops seeds (clover, alfalfa, rye) into growing crops (wheat and corn). The project compares three different seeding patterns using a small air-seeder mounted on a modified manure applicator. Seed is planted as manure is being applied and is broadcast, ahead of a manure tanker, behind it, or directly into the manure application trench. The project will determine the success of these methods in establishing a cover crop. It is expected that by combining cover crop planting with nutrient application to the host crop, that cover crop adoption may become more widespread in corn production as a practical strategy to control erosion and build soil structure.

Cover crops protect soil from winter erosion by wind and water and reduce the potential for runoff of nutrients such as phosphorous. Erosion and nutrient runoff cost farmers money, and farmers are continually working to reduce the potential for these issues to occur.

“We are trying to establish three crops in wheat and four in corn‎ – clover, crimson, red clover, alfalfa, plus rye in corn. We believe planting them with manure will help get them established,” explains Sam Bradshaw. Sam adds, “Cover crops historically have been difficult to establish. We are trying to get them started earlier in the season by planting them in living crops along with manure.” More cover crops on the soil surface will reduce the potential for runoff events to carry nutrients from the field and for the soil to be eroded by water and wind. The approach is unique, but if successful, it may change the way farmers look at cover crops.

The technology available to farmers allows them to do things that previous generations were unable to do. “We are using two pieces of equipment, a German designed disk applicator in wheat and a Nuhn injector in corn” Sam explains of the technology used for the project. Kraayenbrink has been on the forefront of emerging manure application and soil compaction reduction technologies and hopes that the practical use of cover crops will assist him with his objectives of improved soil health and fertility.

WAMQI is administered by Farm & Food Care with funding provided under Growing Forward 2.

For more information on any of the 28 WAMQI projects visit: www.farmfoodcare.org and click on the Environment button.

Using shellfish to clean wastewater

By Blair Andrews, Farm & Food Care

University of Windsor chemist Bulent Mutus holds samples of chitosan that were tested in his lab to filter phosphorus and micronutrients from wastewater. Encouraged by promising results, the method will be tested this growing season in the field.

(Windsor) – Ontario researchers are testing a new way of removing phosphorus and micronutrients from wastewater. Dr. Bulent Mutus, a chemist at the University of Windsor, has developed a bio-filter made from chitosan, the hard material from shellfish.

The filters, which have produced promising results in the lab, are going to be tested this year at three agricultural sites.

“It’s very heartening that we can do this in a laboratory scale,” says Mutus. “This agricultural scale will tell us whether our lab results can be extrapolated to the real situation.”

Dr. Mutus’ project was one of 17 that were funded partially through the Water Resource Adaptation and Management Initiative (WRAMI) administered by Farm & Food Care. The WRAMI project supported research into improved agricultural water management. Continue reading

28 Applied Research Projects funded under WAMQI

April 8, 2014 (Guelph) – A total of 28 projects have been selected by a review committee from 43 eligible applications for funding of approximately $1.5 million from the Water Adaptation Management and Quality Initiative (WAMQI) over the coming year.

Funding is provided through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The program is administered by Farm & Food Care Ontario.

This applied research and demonstration program will encourage demonstration and pilot projects that showcase innovative technologies and solutions for agricultural water conservation and efficiency. The initiative will also support projects that demonstrate efficient use of nutrients and nutrient management related to water quality. Projects have been chosen that support farm water quality and water quantity objectives and that will benefit Ontario agricultural producers and organizations.

Bruce Kelly, Environmental Program Lead at Farm & Food Care Ontario said that he was pleased with the scope and diversity of the applications submitted this year. Said Kelly, “WAMQI builds on the successful Water Resource Adaptation and Management Initiative last year and will further our efforts to improve agricultural water use efficiency and better our understanding of managing agricultural nutrients.”

Successful WAMQI applicants and projects approved for funding can be found at http://www.farmfoodcare.org/images/pdfs/WAMQI%20eng.pdf

The Water’s Edge Transformation Program (WET) available for Lake Simcoe area farmers

Water’s Edge Transformation Program (WET) available for Lake Simcoe area farmers

Guest post

Guelph, ON- The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association is currently accepting applications for the Water’s Edge Transformation program (WET). The program is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and is available to farm businesses located along a watercourse in the Lake Simcoe, Severn Sound and Nottawasaga Watersheds. Continue reading

Water resource results symposium March 6

Farm & Food Care Ontario, in partnership with the University of Guelph, is pleased to be supporting a symposium featuring results from the WRAMI (Water Resource Adaptation and Management Initiative) initiative of 2013.

The results of several WRAMI projects will be released at the event on March 6, 2014 at the Holiday Inn in Guelph. The symposium will feature talks from nine WRAMI participants and partners and a poster display session. The keynote address will be given by Chris Kinsley, Manager of the Ontario Rural Wastewater Centre.

Reasons to Attend:

  • Projects highlighted will include irrigation of potatoes, corn, grapes, peaches, sod and water benchmarking of container nurseries.
  • Hear from project researchers about their experiences and lessons learned during their 2013 WRAMI projects.
  • Project participants will also provide results of water use surveys and grower experiences with extension and water management advisory services.
  • Two of the projects profiled will feature leading edge waste water treatment solutions related to the greenhouse.

Who Should Attend? If you have an interest in water saving and conservation programs, practices and technologies, you should plan to attend this forum. The program will be of special interest to students, researchers, extension professionals and agronomists.

Call for Posters:  A poster session will be a component of the symposium, providing an opportunity to present new information about water use in Ontario agriculture.  Posters featuring results from research trials including water saving, water use efficiency, soil moisture monitoring, water use economics, agricultural water recycling/reuse and water use efficiency technologies are welcomed.  Graduate students, researchers and industry and extension specialists are encouraged to participate.

WRAMI is an 18-month (2013-2014) program which has allocated approximately $900,000 to various demonstration and pilot scale projects. The objective of the WRAMI initiative is to help Ontario farmers be better prepared for low water response, drought preparedness and adapt their water use practices to deal with the growing impacts of climate change.

Registration is only $15.00 for the entire conference. Register at https://2014wrami.eventbrite.ca