Soil Health in Canada

Soil health in Canada (PDF, 2.1 MB)

Goals and accomplishments

Canada has consistently advocated for soil conservation as a central aspect of sustainable agriculture. The efforts by Canadian farmers and policy makers have produced some resounding goals and achievements in soil health:

  • Good farming practices have helped agricultural soils in Canada remove approximately 4.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2019, off setting 5.8% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The amount of Canadian farmland using minimal tillage methods increased from 10% to 60% from 1991 to 2011. These changes were most significant in Canada's Prairie region, which accounts for 80% of Canada's arable land.
  • Across Canada, agricultural soils have shifted from being a net source of 1.2 megatonnes (Mt) of CO2 per year in 1981 to a net sink of 4.2Mt of CO2 per year in 2019.
  • Canada is set to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030 and becoming net-zero by 2050.
  • Canada is participating in international efforts to scale up nature-based climate solutions, including through its work with the Global Commission on Adaptation and Global Research Alliance on agriculture GHGs.

Research and development

Canada supports collaborative efforts between scientists and industry that result in increased knowledge as well as practices and technologies to improve soil health.

  • The Agriculture Climate Solutions (ACS) program helps to identify and implement farming practices that enhance the ability of agricultural lands to address climate change. It's main objective is to sequester carbon on agricultural land to reduce overall GHGs.
  • Living Laboratories (LL), as part of the ACS Initiative, aims to implement four Agroecosystem LLs, where farmers, scientists, and other partners work together to co-develop, test, and monitor beneficial management practices (BMPs) and new technologies to protect soil health.
  • Canada's AgriScience program provides funding for pre-commercial sciences that aim to accelerate the pace of innovation in agriculture, for example including science to understand the role of soil biodiversity in maintaining healthy and sustainable agricultural systems.
  • The University of Guelph's Soil Health Interpretive Centre serves as a venue to raise awareness around soil science, connecting academics, farmers, policy makers, environmental interest groups and students.


Canadian farmers and policy makers require innovative technology and programs to help them monitor and sustain the health of Canadian soils. Canada has developed many of the following tools to increase soil health:

  • Soil Organic Matter, Soil Erosion Risk and Soil Cover Indicators developed and maintained by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) provide information on the risk of agricultural soil degradation in Canada.
  • Canadian Soil Information Service (CanSIS) is an authoritative source of soil data and land resource information that produces predictive soil mapping through the incorporation of new data and greater geographic resolution.
  • Environmental Farm Plans help farmers identify the environmental strengths and weaknesses of their farms and make action plans for improvement, such as maintaining and enhancing soil nutrients while controlling soil erosion.
  • The On-Farm Applied Research and Monitoring (ONFARM) project will support a host of new activities to be carried out with farmers and other partners to make our agri-food sector greener and more competitive (funded under Canadian Agriculture Partnership).

For more information please visit our Soil management page.