WELLINGTON CTY. – Cover crops grown over the winter on agricultural fields just make sense, according to local producers who participated in the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) Rural Water Quality (RWQP) program and received an incentive payment last year.
The program offers a per acre incentive to farmers in Waterloo Region, Haldimand, Dufferin, Brant and Wellington counties. The benefits of cover crops are numerous — they can reduce erosion, build better soil structure and improve soil health. Cover crops also help reduce runoff into local waterways, ultimately improving overall watershed health. “With the heavy rains we’ve seen during the last few winters, it’s becoming more and more evident that we should keep the land covered over winter to combat soil erosion” says Ken Hunsberger, a St. Agatha area cash crop producer and president of the Waterloo Federation of Agriculture.
Other producers agree. Over the last five years, more than 350 producers in the Grand River watershed received the cover crop incentive through the municipal programs delivered by the GRCA. With the goal of keeping soil and nutrients in the field, priority is given to erosion-prone fields adjacent to watercourses or wetlands, and areas that are susceptible to wind erosion. Fields that are tile drained or in wellhead protection areas are also considered. Cover crops that are used solely for cover – not harvested or grazed – are eligible under the program.
Applications for the cover crop program can be submitted now for payment in spring 2020. The incentive rate varies by municipality. Funding decisions are made by a farmer review committee. More information is available about the cover crop program by contacting the GRCA at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 519-621-2761 and asking to speak to a conservation specialist.
Cover crop incentives are just one of the eligible projects supported by the RWQP to improve water quality in the Grand River watershed and reduce the river’s impact on Lake Erie.
To learn more about the broad range of services and grants that are available through the GRCA, including forestry and environmental programs, please visit www.grandriver.ca/ruralwater.