Agronomy Geeks West — Ep. 19: How Long it Takes To Make Soil (Hint: Too Long)

If you’ve noticed soil getting a whole lot more attention lately, it’s for good reason. Not only are scientists beginning to unlock many of the mysteries of what lies beneath, but agriculture has also started to wake up to the importance and potential of soil management on yield. Farmers have always known that soil is important, but we’re beginning to learn the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of that equation. What’s more, 2015 has been dubbed the International Year of Soil by the UN, virtually guaranteeing soil’s elevation to dinner table topic by the end of next year.

In this episode of the Agronomy Geeks West podcast, I’m joined by Angela Bedard-Haughn, a soil scientist with the University of Saskatchewan who specializes in understanding how soil is formed. In this discussion, Bedard-Haughn explains how crucial it is to first think about conservation practices of soil, because while they may not be making any more land, soil is actually harder to replace than you might think. You’ll learn just how long a process soil formation is, how it is influenced by factors like weather and parent material, but, most importantly, also by human activity on the landscape.

In the (rather wordy) intro of this podcast, I also refer to some neat work done on measuring how much soil we’ve lost or moved from hilltops to depressions in the last few decades. You can find that work here: Pennock 2003 Soil and Tillage Research


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One thought on “Agronomy Geeks West — Ep. 19: How Long it Takes To Make Soil (Hint: Too Long)

  1. Hello Lyndsey

    I am the President Haldimand Norfolk Beekeepers Association deep in the corn and soybean areas of Ontario.

    The premise of your article that OMAFRA is not behind the new controls on neonics is incorrect. Please contact the provincial apiarist Paul Kozak at OMAFRA- [email protected] – and talk to him about the dangers of this neural disrupter to our pollinators and other wildlife. This is unquestionably being driven by OMAFRA and the Ontario Beekeepers Association.

    I would like to take you to meet our members for a field study and then to the labs at the University of Guelph to see first hand our scientific approach. You may be unaware of what we have gone through since neonics were introduced. It has in fact been “ science” that has made people listen to us. We have had to amass a huge amount of science to persuade society that honey bees are the “ canary in the coal mine”. We have had to battle Bayer in a misinformation campaign that added years and millions of dollars to our effort to save our livelihood and in turn a large portion of food on your plate everyday.

    We all want the misinformation about “science” and fiscal calamity surrounding neonics to stop.

    We are farmers too, it is not “us against them”. There should be no question about regulating this method of farming. If bees started wiping out 58% of the soy crop we would have local farmers up in arms. We agree science and fact should guide the discussion and we should work together.

    If you follow the trend in the updates over the past year with the PMRA you will see that it is moving toward banning the product as the newest scientific studies come in over the next six months. If you did scroll down to look at the maps on the page you will see bee kills in the corn and soybean areas in Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec

    There are only a handful of “Bee Farmers” or pollination companies and they own a huge share of bee populations in Ontario. These apiarists can have 9000 hives so the numbers may look suspicious on the surface but if you drill down you will see (like soy beans) there are lots of small producers and a few big ones. For every proven neonics incident that has been reported, there are hundreds that are not. Weakened colonies from the slowing neural effects of neonics are susceptible to natural predators who are blamed for the kills.

    One of our biggest concerns is the widely quoted Canada Council report about “catastrophic” soy bean loses in Ontario if neonics are regulated.  Seeds for Success: The Value of Seed Treatments for Ontario Growers (be sure to read the peer review at the bottom of the page)

    I thought you might like to see this article about the reports’ press release from the Globe and Mail that states at the bottom:

     “The report was prepared with financial support from the Grain Farmers of Ontario and CropLife Canada”.  (see following below)

    The EPA in the States says it will cost little or nothing to stop using neonics.

    When I questioned Canada Council I was told in writing that, “We actually acknowledged that there could be a range of effects and that is why we did scenarios.  In fact one scenario showed no yield change.” … so I guess no one read that part of the report. The author Michael Grant did not even review or address a directly related and complete study just published in the USA:

    UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY – October 2014 – Benefits of Neonics on soy beans. (see att.)

    “Published data indicate that in most cases there is no difference in soybean yield when soybean seed was treated with neonicotinoids versus not receiving any insect control treatment.Furthermore, neonicotinoid seed treatments as currently applied are only bioactive in soybean foliage for a period within the first 3-4 weeks of planting, which does not overlap with typical periods of activity for some target pests of concern.”

    The “not based on science” comment ignores the truth and facts of what we have gone through since neonics were introduced. It has in fact been “ science” that has made people listen to us. We have had to amass a huge amount of science to persuade society that honey bees are the “ canary in the coal mine”. We have had to battle the gargantuan international conglomerate Bayer in a misinformation campaign that added years and millions of dollars to our effort to save our livelihood and in turn yours too.

    The reports are coming in more and more against this neural disrupter.

    What more do you need than this? How about a world wide independent scientific study from combined university and industry scholars:

    Task Force on Systemic Pesticides – a group of global, independent scientists affiliated with the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management and the IUCN Species Survival Commission. This was widely reported in the media and gained world wide governmental attention. It came out this summer and it is an analysis from 800 peer reviewed reports from scientists all over the world. (upon request – 85 mb)

    This should be enough to see what is really going on.

    Thank you for your interest in this vitally important debate.

    It is not about politics

    It’s all about the bees,

    David Bowen
    President HalNorBeekeepers
    Simcoe, Ontario

    —————————————-

    See bottom of this

    GLOBE AND MAIL –

    Restriction on insecticide could be costly to Ontario grain farmers

    Potential regulatory changes could limit corn and soybean output and cost Ontario’s economy
    OTTAWA, July 10, 2014 /CNW/ – Restricting the use of neonicotinoids — an insecticide commonly used by crop farmers — could reduce revenues from corn and soybean production by more than $630 million per year in Ontario. The province’s gross domestic product would be cut by nearly $440 million if neonicotinoids were not available for use, according to a Conference Board of Canada report issued today. 
    The report, Seeds for Success: The Value of Seed Treatments for Ontario Growers, provides an important new perspective on the costs of a hypothetical regulatory restriction on existing businesses and operators. 
    “For any significant change in regulations, it’s important for governments to consider the effects on individual farming businesses, as well as the broader costs and benefits,” said Vijay Gill, Director, Policy Research.  “Publicly released cost-benefit analyses rarely accompany new regulatory interventions, and this would be helpful within Canadian regulatory policy and practice.” 
    HIGHLIGHTS
    • Corn and soybean farms collectively accounted for more than 85 per cent of the value of Ontario grains and oilseeds harvested in 2012. 
    • Restricting the use of neonicotinoids could reduce revenues from corn and soybean production by more than $630 million per year in Ontario.
    • Restricting the use of neonicotinoids also would be likely to lead some operators to exit the industry or scale back production. 
    This report examines the potential consequences for Ontario farmers if a hypothetical restriction were placed on the use of neonicotinoid insecticides on Ontario corn and soybeans. The evidence demonstrates that neonicotinoids can effectively treat a variety of pests while adding little to the cost of corn and soybean seeds. Concerns have been raised that such insecticides could be related to a reduction in bee numbers. 
    This report is designed to help policy-makers at the federal and provincial levels conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis of a potential restriction on neonicotinoid seed treatments. It is not in itself a complete cost-benefit analysis, since it focuses only on the potential commercial impacts on Ontario’s grain farms. It does not consider the potential benefits or environmental impacts of such a restriction. 
    Thousands of Ontario grain farms already operate on slim margins. Restricting the use of neonicotinoids could result in some combination of lower yields and/or higher costs. This would reduce profits (or increase losses) in the soybean and corn sectors. Regardless of current profitability, Ontario corn and soybean farms would, on average, experience higher per tonne production costs from such a policy. 
    The analysis assumes that a hypothetical restriction would be enacted only in Ontario. As a result, competitors in the United States in particular would gain an operating advantage over Ontario grain farmers. Consequently, some farms would likely exit the market or scale back production on marginally profitable land, reducing profits across the industry. 
    Corn and soybean farms collectively accounted for more than 85 per cent of the value of Ontario grains and oilseeds harvested in 2012. 
    The report was prepared with financial support from the Grain Farmers of Ontario and CropLife Canada. 
    SOURCE Conference Board of Canada

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