Amanda Diochon, a researcher from Lakehead University, is conducting research into land clearing in northern Ontario, picking up where a recent OSCIA project left off.

Between 2015 and 2017 an OSCIA Tier Two project was conducted by the Temiskaming Crops Coalition, Cochrane SCIA, and NOFIA that examined and compared the different methods of land clearing. The end result of that project was the creation of an authoritative Land Clearing Guide, outlining all of the options, costs, and concerns associated with clearing land in northern Ontario. This guide can be found on NOFIA’s website.

Diochon’s project, entitled Which approach makes the most cents? Evaluating the effect of land conversion practices on soil health and yields of barley and oats will build on these findings. The intention is to compare the long-term soil health and fertility effects of two different land clearing methods.

The first method is the conventional approach of bulldozing and removing most of the trees and scrub brush material before working up the soil. Unfortunately, this process often also results in the removal of much of the valuable topsoil and the soil organic matter at the same time. The second method Diochan’s project is looking at is the alternative technique of leaving the woody matter in place and mulching it into the soil. This has the benefit of leaving the topsoil in place, as well as contributing to the soil organic matter itself.

The success of the land conversion will be measured by soil testing, by the amount of required fertilizer, and by the yields of oats and barley grown in the cleared fields.

Farmers who have cleared land within the past ten years are invited to participate in the data collection and have their cleared fields soil sampled. Diochan is particularly interested in hearing from anyone who has tried the mulching technique. Interested farmers can reach out to Diochan directly by email at adiochon@lakeheadu.ca or can contact NOFIA at 705-647-4782 or info@nofia-agri.com.

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