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Applied Research Report

Tracey Ryan

Provided by: Tracey Ryan, Applied Research Coordinator

Tracey joined OSCIA as the Applied Research Coordinator in 2020. With over 35 years of experience working with Conservation Authorities to engage rural and agricultural landowners in programs and events to increase the environmental health of agricultural and rural landscapes, Tracey is well situated to take on this role. She has extensive experience working with producers, community groups, organizations and different levels of government developing and delivering stewardship programs and outreach activities. Tracey has a Bachelor of Environmental Studies from UW and a graduate degree in Rural Extension Studies from U of Guelph.


Through applied research projects, OSCIA continues to advance soil health, water quality and climate solutions research that directly benefit producers.

Living Lab-Ontario

The Living Lab – Ontario project was initiated in 2019 and will end March 31, 2023. Under the leadership of OSCIA, the, Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario, Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario, Ontario Soil NetworkEssex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA)Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority (LTVCA) and Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) collaborate with Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (AAFC) on the project. 

The objective of Living Lab-Ontario is to increase the adoption of Best Management Practices (BMPs) that enhance soil health and protect water quality in the Canadian Lake Erie watershed. This is being accomplished through the following activities:

  • Innovative on-farm trials and demonstrations to evaluate the benefits of the BMPs
  • Socio-economic analysis of adopting BMPs on a farm and watershed scale
  • Assessing the ecological impacts of BMP adoption on a farm and watershed scale
  • Communicating the benefits of BMP adoption through social media, virtual events, demonstrations, workshops, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities.

During 2022 the Living Lab-Ontario project continued the collaborative research conducted by numerous scientists from both AAFC and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) on farms and watersheds located in the Lake Erie basin. The research focuses on Best Management Practices that reduce soil and nutrient runoff from agricultural land into Lake Erie, improve water quality, conserve soil health, and increase biodiversity on agricultural lands in Ontario.

Each of the farm cooperators is experimenting and testing a different practice on their farm. The research combines socio- economic, agronomic, and natural science data to evaluate the impacts of the practices. Through co-development with researchers, experts, and other producers, the practices are refined each year.

The Living Laboratories Initiative is a valuable opportunity for producers, agricultural organizations, and conservation authorities to work with federal government scientists to evaluate and communicate the socio-economic and ecological impacts of cover crops and minimum tillage. In 2022, the Living Lab partners hosted eight field days and numerous webinars. Research profiles and more information can be found online here. The Living Lab-Ontario Knowledge and Research Forum will be held online February 28, 2023.

The Agricultural Climate Solutions Living Lab Proposal

OSCIA is leading a new Consortium that is seeking to deliver a new five-year Agriculture and Agri-food Canada Agricultural Climate Solutions – Living Labs Program.  In September, OSCIA was awarded a grant to support developing a network and to develop a comprehensive project proposal.  The objective of the Agricultural Solutions -Living Lab (ACS-LL) is to accelerate the co-development, testing, adoption, dissemination, and monitoring of BMPs and innovations that will sequester carbon, mitigate climate change, and support environmental benefits.

Collectively the Consortium partners represent a sizable portion of agricultural producers in Ontario. The Consortium also includes a diversity of agricultural perspectives.

The Consortium partners are:

  • Grain Farmers of Ontario,
  • Dairy Farmers of Ontario,
  • Ontario Sheep Farmers,
  • Beef Farmers of Ontario,
  • Ontario Federation of Agriculture,
  • Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario,
  • Soils at Guelph,
  • County of Wellington,
  • Greenbelt Foundation,
  • University of Guelph.

The Consortium understands that improving carbon sequestration and reducing GHG emissions on farms is complex and that there is no single BMP that will fit all farms. To achieve these objectives the Consortium has chosen to focus on “Best Bests.” These are BMPs that are known to either sequester C or reduce GHG emissions and that have the potential to be adopted by a diversity of producers including crop and livestock producers at different scales. The success of widespread adoption hinges on understanding what additional information is required to assist producers to adopt the BMPs.

To find the best bets, producers were consulted on BMPs that are known to sequester carbon or reduce GHG emissions. The BMPs were grouped into six categories: Cropping Systems, Nitrogen and Nutrient Use, Manure Storage, Landscape Management, Grazing Management and Livestock Feeding Strategies. Producers and industry advisors were consulted on the BMP list through focus groups and a survey. The goal of the consultation was to identify which BMPs producers have the most interest in adopting and what changes or additional information is needed to improve the likelihood of adoption. Twenty-three producers and advisors participated in the focus groups and 165 completed the survey.

The proposed research objectives have been shaped to address the needs and questions of the producer and the priorities identified by the organization partners. On-farm research looks to identify the systems and variables that impact the effectiveness/adoption of beneficial management practices that sequester C and mitigate GHG impacts. This includes research on the social and behavioral aspects alongside technical and agronomic questions. Collaborating on research as well as KTT will ensure that the project provides outcomes that increase adoption of BMPs.

The application was submitted on January 26th, 2023, and if successful, OSCIA and partners will be seeking 15 Living Lab farm cooperators later this year.