Importance of Biological Diversity
Did you know that across Ontario, almost 70 per cent of all farmland is used to grow three plant species? This number is closer to 80 per cent in the Region of Peel. These three species, corn, soybean and wheat, are important agricultural commodities that provide a stable source of income for farmers.
Although most cropland is dominated by few species, farmers understand the importance of biological diversity. They use several practices to increase the diversity of their crops, such as crop rotation and planting cover crops. These practices lead to improved soil function and fertility, increased crop yield, and help to manage pests and disease naturally. A diverse crop rotation also helps to lower greenhouse gas emissions from soil and improve habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects.
Crop rotation is a common practice for farmers in the Credit River Watershed. Rather than planting the same crop species year after year, the farmer will alternate with different crops. A higher diversity is achieved by following a rotational crop cycle of two or more years. The most used crop rotation in the Credit River Watershed is a three-year rotation of soybeans, corn and wheat.
Small grains, like wheat, are an important part of a diverse crop rotation because they increase the yield of other crop species in the same field. This is also true for other small grains including barley, spelt, oats, amaranth and quinoa. The Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO) offers the Small Grains incentive program to offset the cost and risk for farmers who wish to diversify their crop rotation with the addition of a new small grain species. Farmers can apply for the program during one of its intake periods occurring each July and December. Visit the EFAO website for more information and to apply.
Another great way to increase crop diversity is to plant cover crops. Credit Valley Conservation offers an incentive of $40-$100 per acre to help eligible farmers grow cover crops. Connect with us today to get started.
Your Countryside Stewardship Team