Guelph – As a collaborator on the Living Lab – Ontario initiative, the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO) is one of 10 partners who will facilitate on-farm research trials focused on reduced tillage and continuous cover. EFAO will support two trials, one in organic field crop production and one in organic vegetable production.


Brett Israel of 3Gen Organics will compare traditional tillage, soybeans no-till planted into cereal rye, and short season soybeans double cropped after winter barley.


“I think most people are getting used to the idea that healthy soil needs to be the goal,” says Brett. “But it’s hard to know what the best approach might be. This project will allow researchers to compare a ton of different approaches across Ontario, not just on our farm, so I think that will provide a lot of good information.”


Ken Laing of Orchard Hill Farm will compare different winter-killed and rolled cover crops and mulching systems to reduce tillage and maintain continuous cover for transplanted and direct seeded organic vegetable crops.


“I’ve been experimenting with no-till for a while,” says Ken, “but prioritizing soil health needs to be common practice, not niche. So research like this is important.”


Along with the other Living Lab partner organizations, EFAO will also work to deliver education and outreach to increase the adoption of innovative best management and climate friendly practices.


“We are very excited to draw on the expertise of AFFC scientists and the innovations and curiosity of the farmer-cooperators who are participating in Living Labs Ontario. This initiative aligns well with the ongoing farmer-led research that EFAO supports, and has the potential to bring new attention to the value of farmer-centered research in addressing some of the big challenges we face in agriculture. We are also excited to work with a host of other farm organizations like the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, the Ontario Soil Network, and the Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario to deliver engaging and creative farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing opportunities for farmers across Ontario to help increase understanding and adoption of ecological and climate-friendly farming practices.” says Ali English, EFAO Executive Director


Launched in 2016, EFAO’s Farmer-Led Research Program has supported more than 70 different farmers to conduct over 100 trials for their farms, and share results freely with others through field days and workshops. The Living Lab initiative is a natural extension of that work.


Led by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA), Living Lab – Ontario collaborators include farmers, agricultural and conservation organizations, and scientists from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and other federal departments. Their research will focus on reducing the soil and nutrient runoff from agricultural land into Lake Erie, improving water quality, conserving soil health, and increasing biodiversity on agricultural lands in Ontario. They will share their expertise with farmers across Canada to help accelerate the adoption of sustainable practices and technologies.


“Ontario farmers are leaders in environmentally-smart agriculture and continue to find innovative practices that ensure the long-term health of their lands,” says The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. “The collaborative research approach will help Ontario farmers develop new sustainable practices that can be used by all farmers across the province and the country.”