Rapid Development of Boreal Forest to Farmland:
Temiskaming Crops Coalition/Cochrane District Soil and Crop Improvement Association Three-Year OSCIA Research Project
This three-year project had two main objectives: (1) to assess the soil impacts and crop growth potential
resulting from a mulching/subsoiling process and (2) develop a business case that will evaluate mulching and
other methods of traditional land clearing. Two sites were mulched and sub-soiled in 2015, with forages and
crops planted in the two following years. Based upon soil samples and field monitoring, a viable crop can be
grown immediately after mulching, however yields were less than those on the conventionally cleared plot.
The level of organic matter and the carbon-nitrogen ratio are increasing at a faster rate on the mulched plot
compared to the conventional plot.
Management strategies for future mulching could consider:
Complete mulching in the fall, let the residue winter on the ground and subsoil in the spring
Plant a high biomass crop for the first year or two to give wood residue time to break down and
further incorporate within soil
Broadcast or aerial seeding to reduce seed displacement caused by mulched seedbed.
Thoroughly incorporate the woody material into the seedbed – seedbed preparation is key to
proper seed placement.
Monitor soil health with soil sampling and add amendments according to results. High levels of
fertilizer will likely be necessary, especially for mulched fields. This is also an important
consideration for land clearing in general.
Funding for this project was provided through a Tier Two grant supported by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association.