The winners of the 2021 Soil Champion award from Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) have been announced.
Henry Denotter, grain farmer from Essex county, receives the award in the producer category. Dr. Laura Van Eerd, professor at University of Guelph, Ridgetown campus, receives the research and extension win.
The annual award recognizes leaders in sustainable soil management and those who advocate for the cause.
“We are excited to be able to present the Soil Champion Award to two recipients this year,” says Chad Anderson, OSCIA president for 2021. “Both Henry and Laura are very worthy recipients of this award and we appreciate their passion for soil health and everything they are doing to advance sustainable soil health management in Ontario.”
Henry Denotter farms with his family in southern Essex County, growing corn, soybeans, wheat and cover crops. Denotter started his soil health improvement activities decades ago, when he planted his first crop of no-till soybeans on 30-inch rows. Today, he aims to be 100 per cent no-till every year. Denotter’s fields are grid soil sampled regularly and he applies fertilizer in-furrow for minimal soil disturbance.
Denotter has been experimenting with buckwheat as part of his cover crop program in his rotation. His biggest success stories have been transitioning from 20 inch rows in no-till corn and soybeans, and his modified air seeder he bought and rebuilt that can accommodate multiple crops and fertilizer.
“Sometimes even the smallest thing can improve soil health – every little bit can make a difference,” says Denotter. “Being selected Soil Champion is like icing on the cake. This has been part of my focus for the last 20 years and I didn’t realize how much I’d done in that time.”
Laura Van Eerd is a professor in sustainable soils management, and when she first started at the Ridgetown campus in 2003, much of her work involved nitrogen fertility in vegetable crops. Now her big focus is on cover crops and how they influence carbon storage and soil health.
Laura has lent her expertise to RealAgriculture in various ways including this interview on how research showing cover crops can increase yields and in this Soil School episode on cover crops and soil health.