Chinook Applied Research Association

2023 Finalist: Regional Innovation Champion

Finalist: Chinook Applied Research Association (Yamily Zavala, Soil Health Lab Manager and Crop Management Specialist)

Initiative: Connecting Science and Producers: Enhancing Soil Health One Field at a Time

The CARA Soil Health Lab Initiative is a unique “producer’s lab” led by Dr. Yamily Zavala. Dr. Zavala joined the Chinook Applied Research Association ten years ago and has since shared her passion for improving the understanding of soil health, monitoring soil parameters, evaluating soil amendments and enhancing the impact of management practices. The CARA Soil Health Lab is the first of its kind in Western Canada and has grown because of the support from farmers, farm groups, local municipalities and other players in the agricultural industry. The Lab has evaluated over four thousand submissions of soil, compost and other soil amendments from points across Western Canada.

Dr. Zavala led the Alberta Soil Health Benchmark and Management Verification Projects, in which 11 producer group

partners have collected hundreds of soil samples from across the province. The sites are monitored for the impact of various management practices. These projects will help producers in understanding their soils and how to improve soil health and, ultimately, the nutritional quality of what they produce. In addition, the soil assessments (soil health indictors) from all samples processed in the lab are being used to develop Alberta soil health scoring functions. The soil health scores will help to create management alternative for soil health (MASH)