Marking World Soil Day, the University of Guelph announced yesterday a $500,000 donation for soil health outreach in Ontario.
The joint donation was made by Lillie Ann Morris, who has worked for more than four decades in agricultural advertising sales; Glacier FarmMedia, the agricultural division of information communications company Glacier Media Inc. based in Vancouver; and Bob Kerr (B.Sc. (Agr.), ’68) and Moira Kerr, who farm in Chatham, Ont.
Financial support for the project will also come from the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) dean’s office.
“These generous donors have shown a real commitment to the foundation of food production, environmental stewardship and the future of farming in Ontario, which is healthy soil,” says Rene Van Acker, OAC dean. “These donors have a visionary commitment to ensuring our farmers have the very best knowledge on this topic.”
Morris, who grew up on a Kentucky farm with a strong soil care ethic, said, “By supporting soil health outreach, I can help carry that ethic forward and ensure optimal, reliable and sustainable food production now and in the future.”
Profs. Kari Dunfield, Laura Van Eerd and Claudia Wagner-Riddle, all based in the School of Environmental Sciences, will lead a new outreach initiative to bring together soil researchers from across the University and province.
Van Acker said all three scientists have produced high-quality research and have engaged in collaboration and outreach.
• Dunfield holds the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Microbiology of Agro-Ecosystems.
• Based at U of G’s Ridgetown Campus, Van Eerd studies sustainable soil management, and is the research program director of the environmental sustainability theme of the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance Research Program.
• Wagner-Riddle studies effects of management on soil ecosystem services and is the lead researcher of the Soil Health Interpretive Centre run by SES and located at U of G’s Elora Research Station.
“More and more, we see Ontario farmers interested in soil health and what they can be doing to protect this resource,” said Dunfield. “We are producing impactful research with global recognition, but we need to make sure the results end up in the hands of our farmers.”
Nothing is more important to future food production than soil health, she said, adding that “this donation will enable a heightened outreach focus and support our soil health researchers in better connecting with stakeholder groups like the farmer-led Ontario Soil Network.”
Earlier this year, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs released a farm soil health and conservation strategy.
World Soil Day is marked Dec. 5 to raise awareness of soil health. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 33 per cent of the planet’s soils are already degraded.