Improving Soil Health: OAC Celebrates World Soil Day | Ontario Agricultural College

Improving Soil Health: OAC Celebrates World Soil Day

Posted on Saturday, December 2nd, 2023

a lysimeter at the soils at guelph research station with its lid open

Soil health is a cornerstone of our planet's well-being, playing a pivotal role in sustaining life, fostering environmental resilience and feeding our planet.

Soil is far more than just a medium for plant growth, though. Its intricate web of microorganisms, organic matter, minerals, and water regulates essential ecosystem functions. The importance of soil health extends beyond agriculture, impacting global food security, biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation. Understanding and prioritizing soil health is not merely a scientific endeavor but a crucial step towards building a sustainable and resilient future for generations.

To celebrate World Soil Day on December 5th, meet some of the researchers and projects at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College that are building a more sustainable agri-food system by improving soil health.


a lysimeter on the ground at the soils at guelph research station. it's lid is open

Soils at Guelph's Soil Health Interpretive Centre

The Soil Health Interpretive Centre (SHIC) is a state-of-the-art soil health monitoring station at the Ontario Crops Research Centre* in Elora, Ontario. Led by OAC faculty, the SHIC looks into how to improve soil health and better understand the agronomic benefits and ecosystem services provided by healthy soils. The station uses a vacuum pump to extract soil water through porous ceramic cups and analyzed for nutrients. Research has shown that including cover crops can reduce nitrate (NO3) leaching out of the root zone by 70%. Including cover crops not only keeps valuable nutrients in the soil but also protects drinking water.

Visit Soils At Guelph’s website for case studies and factsheets about the value of soil health in our agri-food systems.

Click here for a version of the video with descriptive audio

Dr. Laura van Eerd outside in green space

Dr. Laura L. Van Eerd

Professor, Ridgetown Campus, School of Environmental Sciences

Dr. Van Eerd’s internationally-recognized research program focuses on enhancing our understanding of carbon and nitrogen cycling in agricultural soils. She is interested in how soil management practices impact primary productivity and the environment. She aims to find solutions for farmers to improve their soil’s sustainability by shedding light on the importance of cover crops and its link to primary productivity and resiliency. Her work aims to enhance nitrogen use efficiency while mitigating edge-of-field losses. In 2023, Dr. Van Eerd was recognized as Fellow of the Canadian Society of Agronomy and in 2020 as one of six Influential Women of Canadian Agriculture.

Sevendeep Kaur

PhD candidate, Environmental Science

Last month, OAC PhD candidate Sevendeep Kaur received the first prize in the Nutrient Management & Soil and Plant Analysis category at the recent Soil Science of America Conference in St. Louis. In doing so, Kaur advances to compete and represent her category at the SSSA Society-wide competition. Kaur’s research explores how new technologies can be used to predict organic nitrogen mineralization potential in soils. Kaur’s research is funded in part by the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, a collaboration between the Government of Ontario and U of G.

Click here to read more about the research that won Kaur the award.

Dr Kari Dunfield outside in a green space

Dr. Kari Dunfield 

Professor, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Microbiology of Agro-ecosystems (12-23)
School of Environmental Sciences, OAC

Dr. Dunfield’s research program explores the relationship between genetic diversity of soil microbial communities and soil ecosystem functioning. She works collaboratively with various research group across campus to assess how agricultural and environmental practices impact soil microbial communities, and microbially mediated soil processes, such as nutrient cycling and greenhouse gas emissions.

adrian correndo wearing a sweater and red shirt, standing in front of johnston hall

Dr. Adrian Correndo

Assistant Professor, Department of Plant Agriculture
Research Chair for the Pick Family Chair in Sustainable Cropping Systems.

With expertise in agronomy and soil fertility, Dr. Correndo’s research heavily relies on maintaining and leveraging the value and legacy of multiple long-term trials at the Ontario Crops Research Centre* in Elora, where management practices such as tillage, crop rotation, cover crops, and fertilization management are studied. Dr. Correndo’s research crosses many disciplines. “Sustainable cropping systems requires this integration of multiple areas of research,” says Correndo. “Identifying the best crop and soil management practices also requires exploring environmental, economics, and social dimensions.” 


*The Ontario Crops Research Centre is owned by the Government of Ontario through its agency, the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario. Research conducted at the centre is funded in part by the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, a collaboration between the Government of Ontario and U of G.

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