Martin Entz is a professor in the Department of Plant Science at the University of Manitoba.  He received his PhD from the University of Saskatchewan in 1988 and worked as a farm manager and research agronomist before embarking on his academic career.  Martin’s research focusses on ecologically-integrated farming systems.  He leads the Glenlea Long-Term Rotation Study – Canada’s oldest organic vs conventional farming systems experiment, which has completed 26 years.  Together with colleagues, Martin founded the U of M’s Natural Systems Agriculture program, which explores cropping systems based on processes found in nature — specifically the natural grassland ecosystem of prairie Canada.

Martin and his team of grad students, research associates and technicians work closely with farmers.  Since 2011, Martin has involved organic farmers directly in the development of crop varieties for organic production.  This “Participatory Plant Breeding” program now involves over 70 wheat, oat and potato farmers from across Canada.

Martin works internationally, providing science support to various NGO’s including the Canadian Foodgrains Bank’s East Africa conservation agriculture program.  Closer to home, Martin is part of Sustainable Canada Dialogues, a group of 60 Canadian scholars who propose evidence-based climate solutions and actions.

Martin teaches at the diploma, degree and graduate levels.  He also hosts farmer field schools and interacts with farmers using a number of other platforms.  “Partnering with farmers is critical. Their experience, observation and innovation make an invaluable contribution to our search for an enduring food system”.

Martin and his family enjoy their small farm, located near Libau, Manitoba.

“A Farm-Eye View of the Future:  Applying New Soil Health Knowledge to Cropping System Design”:  
I remember sitting on an open-air tractor, doing fall tillage, and wondering how soil actually functions.  As a teenager, I was curious.  How is soil able to produce crops?  Why do big tillage clods become soft soil by spring planting?  How does straw decompose?  After 4 decades of education, practical experience, and seeing soil management systems around the world, I have had many of my questions answered.  And, the fantastic soil science community in Canada continues to produce new revelations each year!

My work at the University of Manitoba, which I conduct together with students, technicians and research associates, essentially involves designing cropping and farming systems based on what we know about soils and crops.  The new knowledge about soil health has helped inspire new approaches to no-till; crop rotation; cover cropping; intercropping; crop-livestock integration; and precision agriculture.  My goal is to harness more of nature’s ecology in farming systems.  I want to share some our journey with you today.