Crop Rotations, Soil Degradation and Land Use Policy in PEI

Researchers: J. Stephen Clark, Emmanuel Yiridoe, Gordon Brewster, Nova Scotia Agricultural College; Alan Walberger, University of Lethbridge

Research Summary

One of the most significant trends in PEI agriculture in the last two decades is the expansion of potato production. This expansion was in the main due to the opening of new processing plants by Cavendish Farms and McCains and have been a welcome boost to the overall agricultural industry of the Province.

However, the expansion of potato area has not been without disruptive influences in other sectors. There has been a rise in the frequency and intensity of fish kills after intense rainfalls that have harmed the reputation of the PEI sport fishing industry. There has also been a rise in nitrate levels in surface and ground water that has lead to concerns that water supplies may be threatened. These environmental concerns have spurned land use policy debates that culminated in the establishment of mandatory crop rotations and the establishment of buffer zones to protect water courses.

Little is known about the economic or environmental impacts associated with crop rotations in PEI. While there have been studies that have explored purely economic issues and there have been studies that have studied purely environmental issues, there has been no attempt to link the two. It is unlikely that policies implemented to control adverse environmental impacts associated with crop rotations can be properly understood without linking the economic factors affecting are related to bio-physical processes such as soil erosion and nitrogen cycles.

Significance of Research

The purpose of this project will be to develop a bio-economic model of crop rotations in PEI. This model can then be used to understand the costs and benefits associated with alternative land use policies relating to crop rotations and buffer zones as well as the environmental results of these policies. In this way, it will be possible to analyze the efficiency and efficacy of existing policies as well those that may be contemplated in the future. This information will be useful to policy analysts and land use specialists who may be interested in land use policies in PEI and other Provinces with similar production systems.

Summary of Research Results: Yet to come.