Investigation of Cover Crop Adoption as a Soil Conservation Practice Across Southern Ontario
Diversifying cropping systems with cover crops is an essential practice to maintain production and conserve the environmental impacts of agriculture under-stressed climatic condition. This study utilized OMAFRA’s Field Crop Data (2017), and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Annual Crop Inventory (ACI) datasets with Esri ArcMAP; to investigate crop diversity trends, and cover crop occurrence throughout corn and soybean systems. This study determined that field crop diversity is declining, and cover crops do not have a high adoption rate in corn and soybean systems. The Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) was then employed to assess the correlation between soil loss-sensitive fields with cover crop adoption. Investigating the south Simcoe Watershed as a case study, this research revealed that only a small portion (18.2%) of agricultural operations incorporate cover crops. These findings suggest that cover crops are an underutilized conservation technique that needs to target fields that have yet to adopt cover crops and operations that are located on erosion-prone soils in Southern Ontario.