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Another way by which farmers keep their soil healthy is by growing cover crops — plants like clover, rye, sunflower, radish, and others, that farmers plant in the field after they’ve harvested their main crop. The plants’ job? Just as their name says: to keep the ground covered. This step reduces soil erosion, holds moisture in the soil, and keeps nutrients from fertilizer and manure from being washed away into streams, lakes, and rivers. Some farmers also use cover crops as animal feed by letting livestock graze in those fields in the fall. Keisha Rose PEI Farmer

Using nature to protect crops against pests

Many farmers use a system called Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to suppress and manage diseases, insects, and weeds in an effective, economical, and environmentally sound manner. They closely watch fields, orchards and vineyards to identify pests, and to know when they need to take action to protect the crop. Farmers then make strategic use of a variety of biological, physical, cultural, mechanical, behavioural, and chemical treatment tools to reduce pest populations to acceptable levels. Equally important is evaluating the effectiveness of the treatments. By using IPM, farmers use all the best available pest management strategies, including practices of good land management, using natural enemies, planting certified seed, and keeping pests at bay with physical barriers, such as screens or netting. One popular IPM tool, particularly in greenhouse production, is biological control, which can also be described as using “good bugs to fight bad bugs”.

Livestock are part of healthy soils

Healthy, living soil is essential for growing productive crops in a sustainable way — and livestock play an important part. Sheep or cattle graze grasses and cover crops, and naturally deposit manure in the fields; some livestock farmers will also apply manure from their barns to their fields to put natural fertilizer back into the ground. It’s also common for farmers who don’t have livestock of their own to buy manure from neighbouring farmers to spread on their land.