Submitted by: OSCIA provincial office

When it comes to soil health and conservation, Ken Lawton figures he has a 10-year head start on his efforts to make his farm more sustainable. That’s how the Kent Bridge, Ontario farmer assesses the benefits his farm has accrued from cost-share funding through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (the Partnership).

            Photo credit: Synthesis Agri-Food Network

Lawton grows corn, soybeans and wheat with his cousin, Stan Lawton, and their sons, Ian and Alex. Working with the Partnership, they’re tackling innovative projects to make their businesses more sustainable, protect the environment and grow profits.

For starters, Lawton credits cost-share funding with helping them adopt strip tillage to reduce overall tillage on their farm, improve soil health and increase fertilizer efficiency. “Basically, with support from the Partnership we’ve been able to purchase state-of-the-art equipment and that’s given us the confidence to push forward and meet our goals,” he says. “We wanted to improve our soil quality mostly to enhance drainage and fertilizer efficiency,” says Lawton. He notes that strip till also provides an opportunity to adopt other soil best management practices.

“With strip till, you’re only tilling 10 inches and leaving 20 inches between the row untouched and that presents an opportunity to plant cover crops,” explains Lawton. He adds that the strip-tiller also has the ability to band two fertilizer products at the same time and place them directly under the row. “I believe that will give us the ability to reduce fertilizer and increase yield.”

Lawton says setting goals for the farm is important. He credits the Partnership application process with helping fine-tune their ideas and put them into action.

“It was fairly easy. I went and took the Environmental Farm Plan Workshop. The people there were supportive and helped us explore our options,” says Lawton. “We knew basically what we wanted to do with the strip till and the Partnership made that possible.”

The Partnership has also helped Lawton improve how he plants cover crops, making the process much more efficient. “Another project we had was seed discs to go on our corn planter for planting cover crops. We were able to get the discs that had perfect-size holes to plant cereals, and other discs to plant small-seeded crops like radish.”

In 2020, Lawton tried interseeding cover crops into standing corn for the first time. “We planted two rows of cover crops when the corn was about four leaf. That allows the interseeded cover crop to establish much better, stay alive all through the summer and be ready to flourish in the fall. It creates much more biomass than when you plant cover crops after harvest.”

Lawton says they’ll continue to look for new soil and crop management practices that will protect the environment, reduce input costs and increase production.

“The Partnership has allowed us to purchase equipment that we need to make our farm more sustainable,” says Lawton. “I think these practices will improve our soil health, increase yields, allow us to use less fertilizer and keep that fertilizer on the farm rather than having it in the lakes and rivers.”

To hear more about the successful projects under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, including the project at Lawton Farms, visit: https://www.ontariosoilcrop.org/canadian-agricultural-partnership/sharing-on-farm-success-2/

The Partnership cost-share funding is administered to producers by the Ontario Soil & Crop Improvement Association. For more information visit: https://www.ontariosoilcrop.org/canadian-agricultural-partnership/

The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a five- year investment by Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments to encourage innovation, competitiveness and sustainability in Canada’s agriculture industry.

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