OSCIA Applied Research

OSCIA’s Vision statement helps guide partnership with other organizations, funding partners, academia, etc. 

Actively seeking, testing and adopting optimal farm production and stewardship practices

OSCIA is a part of leading edge research on soil health, crop production, bio-energy, grassland bird conservation and more.

Select OSCIA-Supported Research Initiatives

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OSCIA/OMAFRA Tier Two Research Projects

OSCIA, in partnership with OMAFRA, is continuing to fund six Tier 2 applied research projects.  These projects focus on soil health and provide an important opportunity for regional associations to take a lead on the implementation and communication of applied research.  These projects have been profiled in local and Ontario-wide publications, and Year 2 results were presented at the OSCIA Annual Conference in February 2020.  We are entering the final year of these 3-year projects and final results will be shared once completed.

Project Title


Maximizing rye cover crop management for multiple benefits

Heartland and Eastern Valley

Soil Health as it Relates to Yield

St. Clair

AgTiv Mycorrhizal Inoculant Trial on Potato and Cereal Crops

Northeastern Ontario

Roots Not Iron, Phase 2

Thames Valley, Heartland, St. Clair, Quinte

Making Relay Cropping Pay (wheat and soybeans)


Compaction Recovery with Cover Crops

Bruce County (Georgian Central)

While OSCIA has been often identified as a source information on applied research (Crop Advances, etc.), this information has not always been easy to find or access.  OSCIA is currently developing an applied research website that will provide information on the projects OSCIA is involved with and will help facilitate the sharing of results and project ideas.   

(*Pending Approval*) Living Labs

Living Labs is an Agriculture and Agri food Canada (AAFC) initiative that bring producers, scientists and other partners together to evaluate BMPs in a real-life context. OSCIA is the lead applicant on a collaborative proposal that includes Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO, Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario, Ontario Soil Network (OSN) and three Conservation Authorities in the Lake Erie Basin.  This proposal has been co-developed with staff in AAFC’s Science and Technology Branch. The objective of the proposed project is to increase the adoption of BMPs (cover crops and minimum tillage) that enhance soil health and protect water quality in the Lake Erie watershed. 
This will be addressed through the following objectives:

  • Innovative On-Farm Trials and Demonstration to evaluate the benefits of the BMPs
  • Socio-economic Analysis of adopting BMPs on a farm and watershed scale
  • Determine the level of BMP adoption and impacts on water quality on a watershed scale
  • Communicate the benefits of BMP adoption through social media, demonstrations, workshops and peer-to-peer learning opportunities

If approved, the Living Labs initiative will be a valuable opportunity for producers and agri-enviro organizations to work with government scientists to evaluate and communicate the socio-economic and ecological benefits of BMP adoption.

(*Pending*) ONFARM

The On-Farm Applied Research and Monitoring (ONFARM) program is a four-year, Canadian Agricultural Partnership funded initiative that OSCIA is delivering on behalf of OMAFRA. ONFARM builds on work completed under the Great Lakes Agricultural Stewardship Initiative’s (GLASI) Priority Subwatershed Project (PSP), supports Ontario’s Soil Health and Conservation Strategy, and helps the industry meet commitments under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. ONFARM will address these soil health and water quality priorities through the following objectives:

  • Continuation of the monitoring and modelling established in PSP,
  • Establishment of on-farm paired trials in-field to identify soil health indicators and test the effectiveness of Best Management Practices (BMPs) in cooperation with farmers, and;
  • Enhanced engagement opportunities with stakeholders and farmers to foster a network of demonstration farms.

ONFARM is a unique opportunity for producers, commodity organizations, Conservation Authorities, agri-businesses, and agricultural and conservation organizations to work collaboratively to support applied agricultural research in Ontario through developing and implementing on-farm trials, establishing demonstration site, and communicating the efficacy of soil health and water quality BMPS on various cropping systems across southern and central Ontario. 

Seed Treatment Research in Support of Pollinator Health

Research is underway with a team at Ridgetown campus, U. of G. to investigate insect presence (grubs, wireworms) in on-farm trials with treated seed (neonicotinoid insecticides) versus non-treated. The study is also investigating drift of planting dust unto surrounding trees/shrubs. The final field season of the 4 year trial will take place in 2017.

Key research recommendations for producers:

  1. Ensure pesticides stay on the seed by using approved fluency agents and polymers;
  2. Avoid abrasive seed lubricants;
  3. Filter and redirect planter exhaust dust into the soil;
  4. Ensure clean air flows through the vacuum intakes, and;
  5. Practice conservation tillage to minimize soil movement.

Summary of research findings to date (October 2016)

Controlled Tile Drainage

Control Structure. Photo: South Nation Conservation

Research has shown benefits of controlled tile drainage for both the environment and production. The majority of nutrient discharge into water courses occurs from March to June when the soil is exposed and the majority of nutrients are applied to fields. By installing valves to slow down tile outlet discharge during dry periods, the amount of nutrient discharge can be reduced. New technology is being developed to automate valves to adjust outlet discharge to match weather and field conditions. Controlled tile drainage also has proven benefits for crop yields during drought conditions. OSCIA is working with scientists at the University of Ottawa and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada on a new tool that will assist producers in predicting crop yield benefits from controlled tile drainage versus conventionally drained systems under varying weather scenarios.

Controlled Tile Drainage Tool: Calculate Your Benefits

Controlled Tile Drainage homepage

Soil Health Graduate Scholarship

The Soil Health Graduate Scholarship has been established by OSCIA in partnership with the University of Guelph to support expanded research on soil health.  Through generous contributions of OSCIA Founding Partners to their Sustainability Fund, a ‘Soil Health Graduate Scholarship’ of $10,000 per year for five years has been made available to graduate students focused on research in this area. Private funding is supporting this scholarship, launched in 2015 with Past-Presidents’ contributions.

For more information, visit the Sustainability Fund page.

Grassland Birds and Agriculture

OSCIA has partnered with Bird Ecology and Conservation Ontario (BECO) and Renfrew County farmers to complete research on the effectiveness of set-asides in rotational grazing on the nesting success of grassland birds (specifically bobolink) in rotational grazing systems. This two year research project will be key to developing best management practices that allow for productive farm systems and conservation of grassland birds. This project is funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada through the Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Lands initiative.

Studying Bobolink in Grazed Pastures


Keep up to date on our Research Initiatives in our News section.

Soil Mesocosms for Precise and Controlled Mass Balance Studies at the Field Scale: A Unique Facility in North America

OSCIA is participating on the Advisory Committee for innovative soils research at the Elora Research Station, lead by Dr. Claudia Wagner Riddel. The proposed outcomes are:

  1. Science-based management practices for soil ecosystems that will reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, while still providing the ecosystem services Canadian society needs from agriculture;
  2. Improved models that can predict risk of groundwater contamination and greenhouse gas emissions, under climate change and various management systems;
  3. Improved understanding of the role of soil microbial communities and their response to warming and nitrogen addition, and estimates of soil resilience under a changing climate for better future soil management.
    Research 2

Selected Past Research

Emissions Testing from Biomass Heating (DRAFT Infosheet) (News Article)
Partners: Forman Farms, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; University of Guelph

Field-Scale Agricultural Biomass Research and Development Project
Partners: University of Guelph

Ontario Field Crop Residue Survey of Availability and Properties as Potential Feedstocks for the Bioeconomy
Partners: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Quantifying the Physical Characteristics of Good Soil Quality
Partners: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Lake Simcoe Soil Health Improvement Project
Partners: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

On-Farm Corn and Soybean Trials – Neonicotinoid Seed Treatment Efficacy Study
Partners: University of Guelph (Ridgetown Collage)


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