By Cameron Ford, Project Development Advisor at the Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance

On August 12 the West Nipissing – East Sudbury Soil and Crop Improvement Association (WNES SCIA) held their annual crop tour in partnership with the Co-op Régionale. This was the first public agricultural event held in the region since COVID-19 restrictions on in-person gatherings were relaxed.

There were about 25 people in attendance at the tour, which is well under the 100-person limit for outdoor events outlined in the stage three reopening guidelines from the province. Other COVID-19 precautions were also observed. Before parking at the first stop, attendees were met on the driveway by Norm Delorme, Secretary/Treasurer for the WNES SCIA, with a box of masks for those who didn’t have their own. Physical distancing was maintained and masks were worn throughout the tour.

The first stop on the tour was a field of about 30 acres of newly cleared land on Jean Guy Seguin’s farm. The land had previously been permanent mixed forest, but was cleared, mulched down to a depth of 10 inches, levelled and tiled over the course of three years. All told, the process cost about $57 700, including a grant from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) for tiling and income from a company that paid to harvest the brush. Seguin remarked that the land had mulched up very well because it had three years to rest and decompose between clearing and mulching. At the time of the tour he had not done any soil sampling, so he wasn’t sure what treatments the field would need. He plans to sow the field with canola in the spring.

The second stop was a canola phosphorus starter fertilizer trial on Roberge Road. The trials, carried out by Ben Schapelhouman of TECC Agriculture, are testing strips of canola that were treated with 0, 25, 50, and 75 lbs/acre of phosphorus to gauge its effect on yield and overall crop health. There was little visible difference in the treatments at the time of the tour, but a full report from the trial will be published later this fall and will be distributed by NOFIA.

The third stop on the tour was a trial of different BASF InVigor canola varieties, being carried out by Co-op Régionale in one of James Parson’s fields. The trial includes the L233P, L225PC, L345PC varieties, as well as an experimental variety. These varieties each have different qualities, including pod shatter resistance, clubroot resistance, varying maturity dates, and higher yield potentials compared to the control varieties. Results of this trial will be available in the Co-op’s fall newsletter.

The conclusion of the tour was a pizza lunch held in an open driveshed. In order to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols, small square hay bales had been set out six feet apart from each other to be used as seats. Attendees took a seat and told Norm Delorme what sort of pizza they wanted and then he served them individually, wearing a mask and gloves to minimize the number of people coming into contact with the food.

  Overall, the West Nipissing/East Sudbury Soil and Crop Improvement Association demonstrated that some in-person agricultural events can still be held safely and successfullyEnter your content here.

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