Soil Health Resources

Our soil health resource center is a collection of case studies, factsheets, video series, and tools focused on beneficial management practices (BMPs) and their impact on soil health. Discover how these practices are making a difference in soil health and how Ontario farmers are making them work.

Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs)

Conservation Buffers & Land Retirement

Conservation buffers are small areas or strips of land in permanent vegetation, designed to intercept pollutants and manage other environmental concerns.

Land retirement plantings cover the soil with perennial vegetation such as trees, grass or shrubs, providing a permanent cover to protect soil from erosion, rehabilitate degraded soils and provide other environmental, social or economic benefits.

Riverside Buffer and Fragile Land Retirement
This case study of Bob Brickman's farm outlines the benefits of buffer strips along water bodies. By planting trees and restricting livestock access, it improved water quality and reduced streambank erosion, enhancing aquatic health.
Buffer Strip Along Agricultural Drain
Highlighting sustainable farming practices, this case study details Gerald Kodde's implementation of a buffer strip along a drain, showing its positive impact on water quality and soil health, and its role in reducing herbicide drift.
Buffer Strips
This guide details buffer strip benefits, including sediment trapping, erosion prevention, and improved water quality. It emphasizes buffer strips' role in creating healthier ecosystems, offering habitats for various species, and enhancing soil and water conservation.
Riparian Buffer Strips
Riparian buffer strips play a crucial role in reducing sediment and nutrient runoff, controlling erosion, and creating habitats. This factsheet guides on planning effective buffers, considering width, slope, soil, and vegetation, essential for water quality protection and bank stabilization.
Conservation Buffers - Design Guidelines for Buffers, Corridors, and Greenways
USDA National Agroforestry Center
This comprehensive guide presents over 80 guidelines for designing conservation buffers, derived from extensive research. Focusing on ecological processes, it details how buffers can protect soil, improve air and water quality, support biodiversity, and offer economic benefits.

Cover Crops

Secondary crop grown after a primary crop or between rows of the primary crop to provide a protective soil cover that can minimize soil erosion and leaching of nutrients, increase organic matter and diversify the soil biota. Cover crop seed mixes can consist of one or more species, and different mixes are used to achieve different goals.

Using Crop Covers to Reduce Soil Erosion
This case study details Dan Veldman's shift to multi-species cover crops for soil health and erosion control on his Ontario farm. It emphasizes the improved soil health, increased organic matter, and reduced erosion achieved through this change.
Cover Crops Fact Sheet
Factsheet on the benefits of using cover crops in agriculture, emphasizing their role in soil health improvement, erosion control, and nutrient retention. It discusses the selection of suitable species based on specific farming needs and outlines the environmental and economic advantages.
Cover Crops and Manure Application
Cover crops combined with manure application enhance soil health and nutrient retention in agriculture. This factsheet covers methods to mitigate risks like erosion and compaction, highlighting techniques for optimal cover crop planting and manure management.
How to Put a Value on Cover Cropping
Greenbelt Foundation, Soils at Guelph
Factsheet discussing cover cropping benefits like erosion prevention, weed control, and soil improvement. It includes farmer insights on weather resilience and cost-benefit analysis, emphasizing practical tips for successful implementation.
Inter-seeding Cover Crops
Focused on improving soil health, this factsheet details inter-seeding cover crops in agriculture. It discusses erosion control, soil structure enhancement, and carbon sequestration benefits, alongside practical tips on species selection, planting methods, and managing crop competition.
Post Corn Silage, Going to Soybean: Introduce a Fall Rye Cover Crop
OMAFRA, Soils at Guelph
Factsheet focusing on the introduction of fall rye as a cover crop in post corn silage fields, detailing techniques for effective implementation. It emphasizes the importance of timing, seeding rates, and spring work, including termination timing and herbicide use.
After Wheat, Going to Corn or Soybean: Use an Oat-Radish Mix
OMAFRA, Soils at Guelph
Offering strategies for post-wheat cover cropping with an oat-radish mix, this factsheet emphasizes soil health, weed management, and nutrient cycling. It includes insights on seed selection, planting methods, and residue management, tailored for corn or soybean rotation.
Wheat Going to Corn: Underseed Red Clover
OMAFRA, Soils at Guelph
Factsheet detailing underseeding red clover into winter wheat as a cover crop strategy, offering benefits like nitrogen credit and soil improvement. It provides advice on seed purchase, variety selection, planting methods, and post-wheat harvest work for effective crop management.
Winter Cover Crops
Emphasizing soil health, this factsheet provides insight into winter cover crops' benefits like erosion control, nutrient trapping, and greenhouse gas reduction. It discusses suitable types like cereal rye and radishes, along with challenges and management strategies for farms.
Farming Forward: Digging into the Economics of Cover Crops
Farming Forward explores Randy Tkachyk's use of cover crops at his Manitoba farm, focusing on enhancing soil health, providing cattle feed, and extending grazing. It delves into the economics, benefits, and sustainable practices of diverse cropping against unpredictable weather, highlighting how Tkachyk's approach offers both immediate and long-term advantages for the farm.
Cover Crop Seed Suppliers
Listing of cover crop seed suppliers as provided to OMAFRA from the seed suppliers.
Cover Crops: Selector Tools
Midwest Cover Crops Council
The Midwest Cover Crop Council (MCCC) Cover Crop Decision Tools are web-based systems to assist farmers in selecting cover crops to include in field crop and vegetable rotations.

Crop Rotation

Crop rotation consists of growing different types of crops (e.g alternating forage or cereal crops with row crops; legumes, cereals, brassicas, maize) in the same field in sequenced growing seasons.

Adding Wheat to a Corn-soybean Rotation
Greenbelt Foundation, Soils at Guelph
Focused on diversifying crop rotations, this factsheet emphasizes the economic and soil health benefits of adding wheat to corn-soy rotations. It covers improved crop resilience, reduced fertilizer costs, and details the transition process, highlighting increased net profits and soil health improvements.

Integrated Pest Management

Strategy that includes cultural, mechanical, biological and chemical pest control measures and regular pest identification and monitoring to prevent, measure, anticipate and avoid or reduce agrochemical use.

Integrated Pest Management
Offering an overview of IPM, this guide identifies problems with traditional pest control, such as developing resistant species and harming non-target organisms. It proposes a combined approach of different control methods for sustainable pest management.

Nutrient Management

Applying nutrient sources based on an anticipated yield target, crop nutrient requirements and soil nutrient availability, in order to optimize nutrient performance, reduce inputs and to minimize environmental impacts.

4R Nutrient Stewardship
The Fertilizer Institute
This pocket guide explains the 4R approach to nutrient management, balancing economic, social, and environmental aspects. It emphasizes applying the right nutrient source, at the right rate, time, and place, considering local soil, weather, and crop conditions for sustainable agriculture.
Nitrogen Management For Maximum Benefits
Greenbelt Foundation, Soils at Guelph
Focused on sustainable nitrogen management, this factsheet details strategies like split application, reduced rates, and enhanced efficiency fertilizers. It addresses balancing yield response with economic benefits and environmental considerations in agricultural practices.
4R Nutrient Stewardship in Ontario
Fertilizer Canada
Ontario leads in integrating 4R Nutrient Stewardship, aiming to optimize crop production and environmental goals. The strategy focuses on the right nutrient sources, rates, timing, and placement to reduce runoff and enhance sustainability.

Organic Amendments

Periodic application or retention of organic materials to cropland to build soil organic matter, including manure, compost, composted sludge, food waste, digestate, sewage biosolids, crop residue.

Adding Organic Amendments
Enriching cropland soils with organic matter boosts health, productivity, and resilience. Improved properties include water retention and aeration, aiding crop roots. This factsheet details organic amendment sources and best practices for effective soil integration.
Application of Municipal Sewage Biosolids to Cropland
This guide addresses applying municipal sewage biosolids to cropland, covering benefits like nutrient recycling, risks, and regulatory aspects. It includes biosolid treatment, management practices, and legislative requirements for safe application.
Using Manure in Cropping Systems
Greenbelt Foundation, Soils at Guelph
Focusing on manure's economic benefits, this factsheet covers its nutrient content and soil health advantages. It calculates transport costs for cost-effectiveness and underscores its role in boosting crop productivity and reducing fertilizer expenses.

Pasture / Grazing Management

The management of grazing involves the control of livestock access to areas of native or tame pasture land. Often referred to as intensive rotational grazing or regenerative grazing.

Rotational Grazing Systems
Greenbelt Foundation, Soils at Guelph
Factsheet providing an in-depth look at rotational grazing, covering its environmental, economic, and agricultural benefits. It emphasizes soil health, increased livestock efficiency, and farm profitability, while also discussing practical applications and challenges in sustainable agriculture.

Reduced Tillage

Any tillage sequence designed to minimize or reduce the loss of soil and water; a tillage and planting system that leaves 30% or more crop residue cover on the soil surface.

No-Till: Making It Work
A detailed guide for farmers on no-till farming practices. This guide delves into soil conservation, cost efficiency, and sustainable techniques, offering insights into equipment usage, soil and residue management, along with troubleshooting tips for a successful transition to no-till farming methods.
Strip-Tillage In Ontario: The Basics
Factsheet detailing the benefits and practices of strip-tillage in Ontario's agriculture. It discusses how strip-tillage combines the advantages of conventional and no-tillage methods, enhancing soil health and conservation while offering efficient use of resources and equipment.
Strip-Tillage In Ontario: Making It Work
Factsheet providing an in-depth look at strip-tillage farming in Ontario, covering key topics like residue and nutrient management, weed control, GPS use in planting, and integrating cover crops, all tailored to the unique challenges and efficiencies of this farming method.
Reducing Tillage In Cropping Systems
Greenbelt Foundation, Soils at Guelph
This factsheet provides insights into the economic and soil health benefits of reduced tillage in farming. It emphasizes cost savings, improved soil structure, and long-term yield improvements, highlighting the importance of patient implementation and consideration of soil texture impacts.
Strip Tillage Video Series
Farm & Food Care Ontario
This series aims to inform farmers considering strip-tillage through videos explaining strip-tillage basics, benefits for vegetable production, strategies for tough soils, integration into cropping systems, overcoming challenges, economic considerations, and soil health benefits.
Discussing Tillage Practices
Video outlining strip-tillage's benefits, including efficient nutrient placement and erosion reduction, comparing it to no-till and conventional tillage. It highlights improved root systems and potential yield increases, emphasizing the method's adaptability to various conditions, especially in wet years, and its role in organic matter buildup.

Soil Compaction Prevention

Any measures that limit the bulk density and the reduction in the soil pore space available for air and water due to the impact of heavy equipment, rainfall or animals.

Agricultural Soil Compaction: Causes and Management
Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development
Factsheet outlining the causes and management strategies for agricultural soil compaction, detailing its detrimental effects on soil quality and crop production. It discusses the compression of soil particles leading to decreased pore space for air and water, resulting in reduced water infiltration, hindered root growth, and ultimately, lower crop yields.

Soil Testing

Soil information plays an important role in crop production and nutrient management and requires ongoing monitoring so that progress can be assessed and adjustments can be made.

The Power of Soil
Équiterre, Greenbelt Foundation
This factsheet underscores the importance of soil health, highlighting practices like nutrient management and soil testing. It emphasizes urgent action against climate change and soil degradation, advocating for policy support and educational resources to enhance sustainable farming and soil resilience.

Additional Useful Information


Emphasizing the economics behind adopting new BMPs and other management practices, this section aims to equip producers with the knowledge to make informed decisions that align economic viability with ecological integrity.

A Farmer's Guide to Soil Health Budget Analyses
American Farmland Trust
This guide presents economic analyses of soil health practices in farming, focusing on increased net income and yield benefits. It explores methods, case studies, and the long-term value of soil health for crops like corn and soybeans, emphasizing practical insights for sustainable agriculture.
A Farmer's Guide to Soil Health Economics: National Surveys
American Farmland Trust
Compiling US national survey findings, this guide explores the economic impacts of soil health practices on corn, soybean, and grain production. It underscores cover crops and no-till farming's role in enhancing yields and reducing costs and highlights the long-term economic benefits.
A Farmer's Guide to Soil Health Economics: Research Trials
American Farmland Trust
Synthesizing 20 research trials on soil health practices for corn, soybean, and grains in the US, highlighting economic outcomes. This guide examines how these practices affect net income, input costs, and yield, providing evidence for the long-term financial and environmental benefits of sustainable agriculture.

GHG Emissions Reduction

With the prevalence of greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere, farmlands play a crucial role in storing and utilizing these gases for crop growth, all the while preventing further emissions into the atmosphere.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction in Livestock Production Systems
Detailing best management practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in livestock production. This guide focuses on improving feed efficiency, manure management, livestock genetics, and grazing practices, while emphasizing the importance of soil and pasture management to enhance carbon sequestration and minimize emissions.

Soil Quality Indicators

Indicators used to evaluate how well soil functions by identifying soil properties that are responsive to management, affect or correlate with environmental outcomes, and are capable of being precisely measured within certain technical and economic constraints. (NRCS)

Aggregate Stability
Factsheet explaining aggregate stability's role in soil health, highlighting its benefits for erosion resistance, water infiltration, and plant growth. It discusses improving stability through practices like conservation tillage and cover crops, underlining its significance for enhancing soil quality and farm productivity.
Available Water Capacity
Providing insights into available water capacity, a key soil property indicating its ability to retain water for plant use. This factsheet details how soil texture, organic matter, and management practices influence this capacity, impacting plant growth and soil health.
Bulk Density
Uncovering the significance of soil bulk density, this factsheet details its effects on root growth, water permeability, and aeration. It discusses the influence of soil texture and management practices on compaction and offers strategies for monitoring and improving soil structure.
Potentially Mineralizable Nitrogen (PMN)
Delving into potentially mineralizable nitrogen (PMN), this factsheet highlights its role as a vital source of nitrogen for crops, especially in organic farming. It outlines methods for measuring this parameter, practices to increase PMN, and its significance in improving crop nutrition management.
Reactive Carbon
Factsheet focused on reactive carbon's role in soil health, detailing its quick turnover and sensitivity to management practices. It links reactive carbon to soil's physical, chemical, and biological properties, offering insights on monitoring soil health and enhancing carbon sequestration.
Addressing conservation methods to mitigate slaking - the fragmentation of soil aggregates upon wetting. This factsheet outlines the factors influencing slaking, such as soil texture and organic matter, and presents strategies to minimize its effects, thus improving soil structure and water infiltration.
Soil Respiration
Focused on soil respiration's key role, this factsheet explores CO2 release from soil, indicating microbial activity and organic matter decomposition. It underscores soil respiration as essential for nutrient cycling and plant growth, offering insights into optimizing agricultural practices for improved soil health.
Total Organic Carbon
Addressing total organic carbon (TOC) in sustaining soil vitality, this factsheet explores methods for its assessment and strategies to augment through conservation agriculture. It underscores TOC's influence on microbial activity and plant growth, providing a foundation for sustainable soil management.


General Soil Health practices, offering resources to enhance agricultural sustainability and soil resilience.

Four Strategies to Improve Your Field’s Soil Health
Purdue Extension
Factsheet outlining four key strategies to enhance soil health: minimizing soil disturbance, diversifying crop rotation, integrating cover crops, and effective nutrient management. These practices aim to improve soil aggregation, increase organic matter, and enhance overall soil ecosystem health.
Five Soil Health Principles
Menoken Farm
Menoken Farm's webpage highlights five soil health principles: minimize soil disturbance, maintain cover, promote diversity, keep roots year-round, and integrate livestock. Aimed at improving soil structure, biodiversity, water infiltration, and organic matter, these strategies enhance agricultural resilience and productivity.
Soil Health in Ontario
Factsheet outlining the significance of soil health in Ontario,emphasizing the importance of best management practices (BMPs) like cover crops, crop rotations, and organic amendments to sustain agricultural productivity and environmental protection. It highlights soil health's role in mitigating climate change by improving soil's resilience to extreme weather and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Best Management Practices
The BMP series, a collaborative effort of experts and industry professionals, provides a range of publications related to soil, water, and natural area management tailored to Ontario farmers and rural landowners.
MU Center for Regenerative Agriculture
University of Missouri
YouTube channel for The Center for Regenerative Agriculture at University of Missouri, focusing on building integrated regenerative farming approaches and developing more resilient food systems.
Soil Health
Farm & Food Care Ontario
This video series explores the fundamentals and advancements in soil health practices across Ontario, highlighting soil management challenges and solutions. It covers topics like soil remediation, organic amendments, crop rotation, soil testing benefits, tillage erosion, and the use of cover crops.
What is the Soil Health Assessment & Plan (SHAP)?
ONFruit overview of The Soil Health Assessment & Plan (SHAP) by OMAFRA - a tool designed for Ontario farmers to evaluate soil health through a comprehensive lab test and optional modules. It measures key soil function indicators, offering tailored management plans to enhance soil productivity and resilience
Soil Health Institute
Soil Health Institute
YouTube channel for the Soil Health Institute whose mission is to safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of soil through scientific research and advancement.
Slakes App
Soil Health Institute
Utilizing image analysis, The Slakes app valuates the resilience of dry soil aggregates when rewetted, aiding in the determination of soil's physical quality. This tool simplifies soil health assessment for enhanced agricultural productivity and environmental stewardship.