The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) has announced that the Canadian Agricultural Partnership has granted $500,000 for UTRCA staff and local certified crop advisors to work closely with landowners and plant cover crops within a subwatershed of Medway Creek.

The project will assess how effective cover crops are at reducing phosphorus losses on a large scale. Water quality will be monitored to determine the impact of cover crops on nutrient loads in the creek. Previous data, collected from agricultural plot research, has indicated that cover crops may reduce winter and spring nutrient loss in runoff.

“We are pleased to contribute to better understand what steps can be taken to help improve soil health and water quality in the Lake Erie watershed. This project is among several we are supporting. We are committed to protecting the environment, and adopting practices like using cover crops to help reduce nutrient losses in the region,” said Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

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The upper Medway Creek watershed will host this project over the next three years. UTRCA staff will work with farmers in the western part of the study area to plant cover crops on approximately 2,000 acres of farmland.

“Most of the phosphorus losses from agricultural fields are happening over the non-growing season,” said Brad Glasman, conservation services manager at the UTRCA. “Implementing best management practices that target this period is crucial for improving water quality in the Thames River and Lake Erie.”

Tatianna Lozier, Agricultural Soil & Water Quality Technician at the UTRCA, said, “Cover crops protect and stabilize the soil, and we feel they can play an important role in reducing phosphorus losses.”

This project builds on previous stewardship work in the upper Medway watershed and results may have broad applications across the Great Lakes basin.

This project is funded in part through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of the Partnership in Ontario.

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