(Photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / borojoint)

Soil Health Conference Attendance Overflows

Farmers in the Chatham-Kent area are showing a keen interest in keeping phosphorus in their fields and out of local waterways.

That came through clearly at a soil health conference that was held in Chatham Thursday.

Jessica Van Zwol, a healthy watershed specialist with the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority, says the conference was more than sold out.

“A lot of people did say the fog slowed them down, but it didn’t seem to hold anyone back at home,” says Van Zwol. “We were sold out to begin with, but we had a number of people show up the day of that we were able to somehow squeeze in.”

Van Zwol says around 180 people showed up for the conference — most of them were farmers. Some of the key topics at the conference included how to implement cover crops and how to reduce your reliance on pesticides and fertilizers.

Van Zwol says the participants who showed up were especially interested in learning how they can reduce phosphorus runoff into local waterways.

“Farmers want to be a part of the solution and [Thursday] was full of ideas and methods and tools and knowledge of how farmers can be a part of that solution,” says Van Zwol. “They’re concerned not only about their own fields, but also for their industry and they want their clients, the consumers, to know they are working hard to reduce phosphorus run-off.”

Van Zwol also has some tips for how rural landowners can take action to reduce their negative impact on the environment, including:

– Avoiding mowing right up to their creek edge or ditch — that slows overland flow of rain water and snow melt water

– Avoiding using fertilizers in your lawn – they can wash away easily and then you’ve lost your ‘investment’

– Planting perimeter trees around your farmstead can help reduce wind erosion on neighbouring farm fields

– Having your septic system inspected to ensure it is working well and not leaching nutrients

– Decommissioning unused wells

– Avoiding rototilling in vegetable gardens

– Making use of compost and encourage soil microbes, worms and bugs — a balanced system keeps pests in check