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.
Improving Soil Health: OAC Celebrates World Soil Day
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.
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.
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.
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.
*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.