Farmers, citizens, and environmentalists have all recognized the need to preserve the Island's soil quality. Organizations such as the P.E.I. Soil and Crop Improvement Association and the Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association, as well as programmes such as the Environmental Farm Plan Initiative have been working to develop action plans to conserve soil. Historically, soil losses due to wind and water erosion have exceeded natural soil formation resulting in a net loss of fertile soil, however, measures to combat this have be in the works for some time. These measures include; strip cropping and cross slope farming,conservation tillage,
residue management,crop rotation,winter cover,and physical structures such as terraces, surface inlets, grassed waterways and hedgerows.
The soils of Prince Edward Island are relatively shallow, acidic, low in
organic matter and highly erodible.They require careful nurturing to
provide their optimum economic and social return to P.E.I. Soils on P.E.I are
relatively shallow, and in some areas bedrock lies within one metre of the
surface. The loam to fine sand loam soils of P.E.I. are all somewhat limited
for crop production, mainly because of inherently low fertility and poor soil
structure. The large amount of silt and fine sand in the soil results in weak aggregation, which in turn makes it difficult for soil structure to be regenerated and maintained. Also, poor soil structure in the subsoil inhibits drainage.
|Photo: Erosion after a heavy rain |
Many farm production practices can have an adverse effect on soil structure. Tillage and harvesting operations can cause soil compaction problems, reduced water infiltration rates and erosion. This can take place at any time of the year and preventative measures have to be taken during the growing season and after the harvest.
Poor soil maintenance can have a variety of on-farm impacts
such as; reduced depth of the topsoil, reduced organic matter levels, reduced soil fertility, loss of costly inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides, reduced water holding capacity, poor drainage in areas of silt deposition, reduced ability to work fields due to gullies, reduced long term viability. Off-farm impacts include reduced drainage in ditches and culverts, harmful effects on fish and wildlife, buried shellfish beds, reduced coastal water depth for aquaculture and navigation, aquatic environments over enriched with nutrients, and aquatic environments polluted with pesticides. Of course, farming practices are not soley responsible for these results. Other contributing factors includes highway maintenance, urban expansion, and forestry practices.
|Photo: Conventionally tilled field after a 90 mm rainfall |