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GRCA to work with local farmers to protect watershed

A young agri-innovation project came to Linwood on Thursday through a workshop for local farmers.

Initiated by ClimateCHECK and with support from the Grand River Conservation Authority, the project, aptly named Farming 4R Watershed incorporates 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program originally developed by the Canadian Fertilizer Institute to apply better management practices on farms in Ontario.

The programs are designed to create sustainable progeress in the agricultural sector. In the 39 municipalities and in the Grand River Watershed, water quality is a priority according to ClimateCHECK Project Manager Ben Lemire.

“The project is a collaboration of different groups. The Canadian Fertilizer Institute is one of the funding partners, Ontario Centers of Excellence, then ourselves ClimateCHECK which is the project lead,” he explained in an interview in Tuesday adding that the project also has the support of the Ontario Farmers Association (OFA) and the GRCA as well as the Region of Waterloo.

“The main premise of the project is just to promote more environmentally friendly and sustainable use of fertilizer on farms in the Grand River watershed area but mostly in Waterloo Region,” he said.

Though the project is relatively new; the project launch commenced on Aug. 23, supporters like the OFA hope that farmer education on the proper usage of fertilizer will soon spread with the incorporation of educational seminars such as the event in Linwood on Thursday, said OFA director of regulatory modernization David Armitage.

“Think its basically teaching them the judicious use of mineral fertilizer…to ensure that it doesn’t impair water quality.”

There are a number of issues associated with improper use of fertilizer. Fertilizer can seep into water sources in various ways.

“It can leech downward into groundwater or there are some nutrient elements that can bind to soil particles. If you have rainfall it can wash soil into surface water and then you get surface water contaminated,” he explained.

In this way the Grand River watershed’s the aquifers—an underground layer of water-permeable rock— underlying the area can become contaminated as well as the Grand River itself.

The seminars as well as online educational tools are designed to teach farmers the 4 R’s: using the right source, at the right time, in the right place and at the right time, Lemire explained.

“The goal of the project is to gauge where some of the farmers are in terms of fertilizer practices in the region right now and how we can improve…to protect the watershed and the water quality in the region,” adding that part of the challenge is working with farmers to find out what issues might be preventing some from using fertilizer in a sustainable way.

“The word is spreading through the agricultural community,” said ClimateCHECK’s Communications Consultant Janice Hall who has worked on getting farmers on board with the program. “As the project moves along and starts to connect with more and more people we are hoping word will get around event more quickly.”

“It’s very much a collaborative project where we are just trying to work with farmers and different groups from the region,” Lemire added.

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