Small Grains – Frequently Asked Questions
FAQs about Small Grains
Q. What are the benefits of growing small grains?
A. Small grains have big gains. Scientific research and farmer observations show that adding small grains such as wheat, spelt, oats, barley, rye or triticale to a rotation has agronomic, ecological and economic benefits.
- Small grains increase yield for corn and soy: Small grains lead to increased yields and profitability for corn and soybean.
- Small grains reduce pesticide use: Because diverse rotations can control weeds with up to 6 times less herbicide use, their potential freshwater ecotoxicity is up to 200 times lower than that of a simple corn-soybean rotation.
- Small grains help protect and build soil health: A diversity of crops results in a diversity of roots, which provide food and habitat for soil organisms. Diverse roots and soil microorganisms improve soil structure, increase organic matter and help prevent erosion.
- Small grains improve water quality: Since small grains are cool season crops, small grains keep roots in the ground year round. They capture and use nitrate-rich water from the soil and, in turn, prevent nutrient run-off and erosion.
- Small grains reduce GHG emissions and fossil energy use: Small grains are harvested in the summer, which allows farmers to grow legume cover crops and forages in the same season. From the nitrogen fixed by the microbes associated with the legumes, farmers can credit the following (corn) crop and decrease the amount of fertilizer they buy. Reduced fertilizer leads to reduced greenhouse gas emissions and less fossil energy use; and lower cost of production for the farmer.
- Diversity begets diversity: Small grains are critical to integrating livestock on the landscape. The grain crop is feed and straw and the cover crop can be forage.
FAQs for Farmers
Q. Who can apply? How can I apply? What is the eligibility? What support will I receive?
A. These questions are answered in detail on the Small Grains Program page: efao.ca/small-grains/
Q. I already grow small grains. How can this program help me?
A. If you already grow small grains and want to add a new small grain into your rotation, you are eligible for the payment and the additional benefits as part of the Small Grains Network.
If you don’t plan on adding more small grains to your rotation, you aren’t eligible for the payment but you can still be part of the Small Grains Network.
Q. Do I have to be certified organic or grow organically to apply?
A. No, all farmers in Ontario are eligible and welcome to apply to this program.
Q. What is the minimum acreage of a small grain that I must plant to qualify?
A. One acre is the minimum acreage to qualify for the payment.
Q. When will I receive my payment?
A. You will receive your payment after you have planted the cover crop following your small grain.
Q. What if my small grain crop fails?
A. Even if your small grain fails, you are eligible for the payment as long as you follow the failed crop with a legume cover crop or forage crop.
Q. I grow vegetables. Does this program apply to me?
A. Yes! If you want to extend your vegetable rotation by adding a small grain, then this program applies to you.
Q. What is the Small Grains Network?
A. The Small Grain Network provides learning and mentorship opportunities open to all small grain growers in Ontario.
Q. Where can I learn more?
FAQs about the Program
Q. Why pay farmers to grow something that they will market?
A. The payment helps reduce the risk to farmers as they learn to grow small grains and recognizes the myriad of benefits of diversified crop rotations, including:
- Improved soil health and protection;
- Improved water quality;
- Reduced GHG emissions and fossil energy use;
- Increased profitability and farm resilience;
- Reduced pesticide use.
All together, these benefits mean small grains have big gains – #smallgrainsbiggains. Read more about the benefits.
Q. Doesn’t small grain production promote the use of herbicide and fungicide?
A. While conventional small grains production uses herbicides and fungicides, there is a robust body of research that shows that diversifying a crop rotation with small grains – both conventionally and organically – has a many important benefits. Read more about the benefits.
Q. What inspired this project?
A. In 2019 The W. Garfield Weston Foundation invited EFAO to put forward a proposal to help broaden the adoption of ecological farming practices through payments to farmers for implementing a new practice, in combination with farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing and mentorship. While EFAO has not previously delivered payment-type programs, we were interested in the opportunity as it aligned very well with one of the recent strategic goals identified by the EFAO Board of Directors: to broaden adoption of ecological agriculture. We also felt that such a project would respond to one of the policy priorities that we are advocating for through our work in Farmers for Climate Solutions. This farmer-led campaign recently released five recommendations for the federal government to help farmers cope with the twin challenges of COVID-19 and accelerating climate change. One of these policy recommendations is to provide incentives for climate-friendly farming – like diversified rotations.
Have a question that wasn’t answered here?
Please contact Maureen Balsillie, firstname.lastname@example.org, for all other inquiries related to the Small Grains Program.
This program is made possible by funding from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation.