Promoting Behaviour Change for Soil Health: Insights From Recent Social Science Research

Date and Time



Follow along and participate using #SoilRes20.

Hands holding soil


See videos and additional soil health resources to accompany this event.

The Promoting Behaviour Change for Soil Health: Insights From Recent Social Science Research event will:

  • share recent research findings related to soil health;
  • spotlight projects supporting implementation of Ontario’s soil strategy; and
  • promote knowledge-sharing between researchers and decision-makers.

Researchers will provide research findings, including those funded through the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs open research programs and under the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance.

Presenters include:

  • researchers from the University of Guelph and University of Waterloo;
  • the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA); and
  • keynote speaker Dr. J. Arbuckle from Iowa State University.

Research presentation topics will provide updates on:

  • Factors influencing farmer adoption of soil health BMPs including the roles of social networks and peer learning groups;
  • Baseline information on soil including topsoil sampling insights, digital soil mapping, and soil biology; 
  • Soil health BMPs including nitrogen and phosphorus management, cover crop varieties and management; and more.

This event will be of interest to the agri-food industry, government, NGOs, and academia.

We have applied for and hope to offer Certified Crop Adviser Continuing Education for this event.


Session 1

Time Agenda Item Speakers
1:00 p.m. Event Opening Remarks Host: Elin Gwyn, OMAFRA
1:07 p.m. Soil Health Strategy and Soil Action Group Update Thom Hagerty, Director Champion for Stewardship Research, OMAFRA
1:15 p.m. Keynote Topic: Behaviour Change: Key Insights on Barriers to On-farm Adoption Keynote Speaker: Prof. J. Arbuckle, Department of Rural Sociology, Iowa State University
1:45 p.m. Q and A’s  
1:55-2:05 p.m. Mini Break


Session 2

Time Agenda Item Speakers
2:05 p.m. Session 2.1:

Behaviour Change in Ontario– What are we learning?

Q and A’s

Profs. Richard Vyn and Erin Nelson, University of Guelph

2:35 p.m.

Session 2.2

Baseline information for Soil Health

Q and A’s
Dan Saurette, OMAFRA and Prof. Kari Dunfield, University of Guelph
2:55-3:05 p.m. Mini Break  

Session 3

Time Agenda Item Speakers
3:05 p.m. Panel on Best Management Practices in Soil Health - Latest Updates

Host: Cam Ogilvie, Soils at Guelph

Panelists: Profs. Merrin Macrae, University of Waterloo ; Laura Van Eerd and Claudia Wagner Riddle, University of Guelph

3:45 p.m. Lasting Impact – 65 years of Crop Rotation and  Tillage Research Prof. Dave Hooker, University of Guelph
3:55 p.m. Close Prof. Laura Van Eerd, University of Guelph, Research Program Director
Post event Video Web Resources— Ongoing opportunities to learn more about soil health research in action Soil Health Research Project Videos and More


Speaker biographies

Prof. J. Gordon Arbuckle, Iowa State University

J. Arbuckle is professor and extension rural sociologist at Iowa State University. His research and extension efforts focus on improving the environmental and social performance of agricultural systems. His primary areas of interest are drivers of farmer and agricultural stakeholder action related to soil and water quality. He is director of the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, an annual survey of Iowa farmers, and Chair of the ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture.

Prof. Richard Vyn, University of Guelph

Richard Vyn is an associate professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural & Resource Economics at the University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus. He grew up on a cash-crop farm just outside of Guelph. He completed a Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics at the University of Guelph. Prof. Vyn's research focuses primarily on the economics of farm production practices, such as cover crops, and on factors influencing farmland values in Ontario. His other areas of research include marketing of agricultural and food products, and economic impacts of agricultural and rural policy.

Prof. Erin Nelson, University of Guelph

Erin Nelson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at the University of Guelph. With a background in International Development and Rural Studies, Erin’s research explores the development of more sustainable food systems with a particular focus on agroecology initiatives in both Canada and Latin America. Erin is interested in how knowledge-exchange can build capacity for agroecological production, and how agroecology can contribute to ecological resilience and community wellbeing. As a community engaged scholar, Erin works in close collaboration with a wide range of partners, including civil society organizations and farmer networks. She also has a strong interest in experiential learning and has developed agroecology-based educational programs with Cuba’s National Institute of Agricultural Sciences.

Daniel Saurette, OMAFRA

Daniel is a Land resource Specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, located in Guelph, Ontario. Previous to this role, Daniel was primarily working in the private sector as a soil scientist with a focus on soil survey, classification and mapping. His role at OMAFRA is to lead, in a technical capacity, Ontario’s soil survey and mapping program. This includes maintaining the Ontario Soil Survey Complex database, leading new soil survey programs to support OMAFRA’s initiative to update soil maps across agricultural regions of Ontario, and providing interpretation of soil resource information, such as soil classification and CLI agricultural capability ratings. Daniel is an active member of the soil science community as a member of the Canadian Society of Soil Science, the Canadian Digital Soil Mapping Workgroup, and volunteers his expertise to promote soil science through events such as the Envirothon, the Soils Roadshow, Zone Smart and other public events.

Prof. Kari Dunfield, University of Guelph

Kari Dunfield is Professor and Canada Research Chair of Environmental Microbiology at the University of Guelph and one of Canada’s premier scientists working at the intersection of microbiology, ecology, and soil science. Her cutting-edge work is at the forefront of an intensely dynamic field of research: investigation of the microbial communities and microbial processes driving the global processes that help support life on Earth. Her work is re-defining how researchers, scientists, governments and policy-makers approach critical areas of global concern, including climate change, soil conservation, human pathogens and antimicrobial resistance genes in the environment, and food security.  Dr. Dunfield currently serves as a co-Editor-in-Chief for the Canadian Journal of Microbiology, the North American representative of Pillar One of the UN-FAO Global Soil Partnership, and as Co-Executive Director of Soils@Guelph.

Prof. Merrin Macrae, University of Waterloo

Merrin Macrae is a Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Macrae received her B.E.S. and M.Sc. degrees from York University and her Ph.D. from Wilfrid Laurier University. Her research interests center around nutrient (nitrogen, phosphorus) dynamics and water quality in agricultural landscapes and wetlands. Dr. Macrae studies water quality at both watershed and field scales, with an emphasis on assisted drainage. A key aspect of her work involves understanding the winter and snowmelt periods, and the efficacy of conservation practices during these critical times. Her research is largely field-based science, focused in Southern Ontario and Manitoba. She is also an Associate Editor for the Journal of Environmental Quality, Agricultural and Environmental Letters and the Canadian Water Resources Journal.

Prof. Laura Van Eerd, University of Guelph

Dr. Laura Van Eerd is a Professor of Sustainable Soil Management at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus. The goal of her internationally-recognized research program is to advance our understanding of biogeochemical cycling of nitrogen and carbon in various agroecosystems. Dr. Van Eerd’s interests primarily focus on (i) elucidating the role of cover crops and other management on soil health attributes and its link to primary productivity/resiliency and (ii) enhancing nitrogen use efficiency while mitigating edge-of-field losses. She has published over 50 peer-reviewed papers, including 2018 Best Paper of the Year in the Canadian Journal of Plant Science. In addition to awards acknowledging her significant contributions to teaching, research and extension, Laura was recognized as one of six Influential Women of Canadian Agriculture in 2020.

Prof. Claudia Wagner-Riddle, University of Guelph

Claudia Wagner-Riddle is a Professor of Agrometeorology in the School of Environmental Sciences (SES), University of Guelph, Canada.  Originally from Brazil, Claudia has degrees from the University of Sao Paulo and Guelph. Claudia leads an internationally renowned research program utilizing the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions to determine the carbon footprint of food, feed, and fuel produced by agriculture.  Claudia is on the Executive of the Soils At Guelph and leads an NSERC CREATE training program on Climate-Smart Soils. She is a fellow of the Soil Science Society of America and of the American Meteorological Society, and Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. Claudia was recently appointed Director of the North American regional chapter of the International Nitrogen Initiative. Prof. Wagner-Riddle has published >140 papers and has an h-index of 39 (Google Scholar).

Prof. David Hooker, University of Guelph

David Hooker is an Associate Professor at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus. He has a long history in crop science at the University with a B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D. from UofG. His research and teaching programs focus on field crop agronomy, including expertise in genetics, fertility, soil management and pest management which reflects the nature of agronomy as extremely diverse in structure with robust contributions to both science and extension. David’s research goal is to develop a better understanding of field crop systems for developing science-based solutions for improving corn, soybean, and wheat production. His research group aims to achieve a greater efficiency and sustainability of corn, soybean, and wheat production using an applied systems hypothesis-driven approach, through a better understanding of interactions among genotype, environment, and other crop response factors and input variables.

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