skip to main content


Protecting soil health is an important part of the Conservation Strategy developed by people in your community.

For recent soil health initiatives please visit this page: Soil Health – Recent Initiatives

Protection of soil, water, and living things is a key direction of the community-developed Conservation Strategy for Ausable Bayfield watersheds.

Soil is not a renewable natural resource. Once soil health is lost, it’s very hard to get it back again. It may not be possible to recover that soil health in one person’s lifetime.

Recent local research by Ausable Bayfield Conservation has highlighted the role of covered soils to store water which helps to limit runoff.

Contact Ausable Bayfield Conservation staff members about grants and technical expertise that may be available to help you with projects on your property. Phone 519-235-2610 or toll-free 1-888-286-2610 or click on our Contact Staff Page.

For more actions that you, your community, and your local agencies can take visit your community's Conservation Strategy recommendations or the Ausable Bayfield Watershed Report Card.

Protecting Soil, Water, and Living Things

There are a number other reasons soil is vital – including using nutrients and creating food. Healthy soil provides habitat for billions of living creatures. Soil forms the basis for the growing of the food we eat. It is vital to protect this valuable resource, especially as the world demand for food grows.

One way to protect and improve soil health is to plant different cover crops. Cover crops help to nurture the biological activity that takes place in the soil. Cover crops may be planted on bare fields in periods of fallow or between trees or cultivated plants. Cover crops can help maintain the quality and fertility of soil. They can also protect the surface of the land from erosion. Cover crops can halso help manage water, weeds, pests, diseases and more.

Societies that have overlooked the importance of soil have paid a heavy price, according to soil conservation experts. Soil is at the core of land resources. Farming relies on it. People rely on soil for food, feed, fuel, and fibre production. There are only some places where productive soil is found. Soil faces increasing pressure as the world’s demand for food grows. Increased urbanization and more intense and competing land uses create the potential to cause losses and degradation of the soil resource.

We need to value soil for its role in our food security, protection of water quality, and as a driver of the rural economy.

Keeping topsoil on the land and preventing soil erosion are important goals. This helps preserve a valuable economic and environmental resource - it also prevents sediment, chemicals, and pathogens from reaching drains, creeks, rivers, and Lake Huron.

Stewardship projects like berms, tree planting, and wetland creation or enhancement can help preserve topsoil and nutrients on the land and keep sediment, chemicals, and bacteria and pathogens out of water.

One way to protect water quality and soil health is through the use of year-round cover and cover crops:

Cover Crops

Want to try cover crops? Talk to us now about funding incentives to help you. Find out more here:

There are many benefits to cover crops – for the property owner, for the health of soil, and for water quality.

Cover crops can maintain soil moisture and improve yields by building up soil health. Over the years, as soil health improves, cover crops and year-round cover can reduce erosion and nutrient and topsoil loss.

Cover crops reduce soil  erosion, add organic matter, reduce nutrient loss and compaction, improve soil fertility and soil structure, and provide  water management benefits. Cover crops are also important in maintaining soil quality and productivity on agricultural lands. 

Talk to our staff about some of the grant programs with incentives that can help make it easier for you try out cover crops.

Contact stewardship staff about cover crops
Cover Crops in Huron County

To find out about the cover crop incentive category, for County of Huron residents, with the Huron County Clean Water Project, visit the Huron Clean Water Project page here:

Cover Crops in Bayfield area - through the Cover Crops Boost Program

Grant programs offer up to $40 per acre for farmers in Main Bayfield watershed

Landowners in the Main Bayfield watershed are now eligible for an enhanced cost-share program that offers $30 per acre, up to 100 acres, for planting cover crops.

“If you have been wanting to try cover crops, this is a great opportunity,” said Hope Brock, Healthy Watersheds Technician with Ausable Bayfield Conservation. 

The grant is thanks to the enhanced Main Bayfield Cover Crop Boost Program. Agricultural producers in the Main Bayfield watershed can receive a total of up to $40 per acre, when the Cover Crop Boost grant program is paired with funding from the Huron County Clean Water Project.

To find out more about grants to plant cover crops contact Hope Brock or Nathan Schoelier, at Ausable Bayfield Conservation, 519-235-2610 or toll-free 1-888-286-2610.

Funding is limited and some restrictions apply. The next application intake deadlines are July 31 and August 31, 2020.

Download the application form now.

If you are from the Main Bayfield Watershed and you are planting 1-2 species, please fill out this form:

If you are from the Main Bayfield Watershed and you are planting three or more species, please fill out this form:

Cover crops have many benefits to the farmer and the community. They help to protect water quality and build soil health. Cover crops help to reduce loss of nutrients and topsoil, reduce the amount and speed of water running off of land, and reduce wind speed at ground level which reduces wind and water erosion and the speed of water runoff. Those are just some of the benefits.

Do you need some help to decide what to plant? You may contact your local cover crop seed supplier, talk to your neighbour, or contact your certified crop advisor.

You may also want to use the cover crop decision tool here:

The Main Bayfield watershed stretches from Varna west to Bayfield east to Vanastra and north to Clinton. For Main Bayfield Watershed boundaries consult the Watershed Report Cards at at this web page:

For more about grants in the Main Bayfield Watershed please visit the Main Bayfield web page:

The Cover Crop Boost program in the Bayfield area is made possible thanks to funding from Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation.

Cover Crops in Sixty-Inch Corn

Certified Crop Advisor and Professional Agrologist Ross Wilson, of Ausable Bayfield Conservation, is updating us on the use of #covercrops and #60inchcorn in a trial south of Clinton, Ontario, Canada.

Here are some video updates about the project:

First Video (Posted June 2020):

Second Video (Posted July 2020):

#healthylakehuron #landtolake #pieceofthepuzzle

This research project observes the effect of different cover cropping strategies within a 60-inch twin-row corn scenario.

Variables include population size (70,000 versus 48,000).

Another variable is the effect of different cover crop mixes. For example ... tailored either to the corn crop (mostly legume, especially early maturing); or the subsequent bean crop (mostly Italian ryegrass with some clovers and a little brassica and radish).

Other variables are cover crop seeding rate (30 pounds per acre versus 60 pounds per acre); and effect of pruning corn after maturity to enhance cover crop biomass production, in the 30-inch-row scenario.

Ausable Bayfield Conservation is working with the participating landowner (thank you, Bill Gibson and Family!) and with agricultural industry partners to monitor.

The project partners will be monitoring 2020 corn yield; 2020 cover crop biomass production; autumn 2020 soil health indicators; 2021 bean yield; and autumn 2021 soil health indicators.

Strips are 60-feet wide to accommodate three passes of eight row planters and four passes of 15-foot drill. Strips about 700 feet long equate to about one acre in size.

(A football field is about 1.32 acres in size. An acre is more than 4,000 square metres.)

Wilson flags out strips after a second cultivator pass. 

The 60-inch corn twin rows are planted by the two-pass, every-other-row method, offset by seven inches.

Cover crop mixes are drilled into the corn at the 'V4' stage.

There is a common fertility program for all strips.

The project uses GPS (Global Positioning Systems) to locate strip boundaries for furture reference.

The damage to corn is minimized, when planting the cover crop, by splitting twin rows with drill-seed openers.

To find out more contact Ross Wilson, Water and Soils Resources Coordinator, at or phone 519-235-2610 or toll-free 1-888-286-2610, extension 249.