Cover crops and soil testing are widely recognized as Best Management Practices for improving soil health and reducing agricultural pollution, but adoption of these BMPs remains low in Ontario.

Through this project the OSCIA sought to identify and understand the barriers to wide-scale, routine, and ongoing adoption of cover crops and soil testing on farms in Ontario. During 2019 and 2020 extensive research was conducted into the reasons why soil testing and cover cropping are not being implemented on more farms in Ontario. 

The objective of this research was to inform the development of a pilot project to overcome the identified barriers. Understanding barriers will allow for development of targeted strategies for increasing the use of cover crops and soil testing in Ontario.

Key barriers to cover crop adoption included: the direct cost of seeds and planting; unknown risks to future cash crop yield; the agronomic challenges of using cover crops with corn and soy; the lack of Ontario-specific information on economic costs and benefits of cover crops; lack of guidance on using cover crops in an Ontario context as well as others. 

Key barriers to soil testing included: a lack of support and guidance for interpreting and applying results of soil testing; and the lack of a clear business case demonstrating the economic value of soil testing for farm businesses.

BMP program barriers included a lack of awareness among producers and agri-business, a perceived lack of clear messaging, and administrative barriers. Opportunities for improving programs include the need for multi-year program support and supporting early adopters, leveraging agri-business, and moving beyond conventional cost-share programs towards novel and innovative mechanisms for incentivizing BMP adoption.

Full details on this research and findings can be found in the following reports.

Barriers to Adoption – Final Report - available upon request
Barriers to the Adoption of Cover Crops and Soil Testing in Ontario - available upon request
Cost-Share Program Analysis Cover Crop and Soil Testing
Review and Evaluation of Program Models for Increasing the Adoption
Understanding Cover Crop and Soil Testing Use in Ontario
Accelerate Your Soil Health - Final Report

The Reducing Barriers to BMP Adoption – Soil Testing and Cover Crops is a three-year applied research initiative that began in 2019. The initiative supports improving soil health, productivity, and water quality on farms across Ontario. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs identified the need for the project and the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association is delivering it. This project is funded by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year federal-provincial-territorial initiative.