Soil Capability as a predictor of Cropland Change in Alberta, Canada from 1998 to 2010.

Zhang, X., Huffman, E.C., Liu, J., and Liu, H. (2014). "Soil Capability as a predictor of Cropland Change in Alberta, Canada from 1998 to 2010.", Soil Use and Management, 30, pp. 403-413. doi : 10.1111/sum.12134  Access to full text


Understanding the mutual influences between cropland use and soil characteristics is important in anticipating and planning for food production, environmental protection and resource sustainability. Numerous studies focus on the relationship between crop rotations and soil characteristics at a microscale, but fewer studies focus on the relationships between soil capability and cropland use and change at a medium scale. We explore how soil capability has influenced cropland changes over 22 yr, using statistical and land use transition analysis. Landsat images from the years 1988, 2002 and 2010 were used to map cropland changes by soil capability class within a pilot site in Alberta, Canada. Between the late 1980s and 2010: (i) the area of annual crops increased substantially while that of forest and summer-fallow decreased; (ii) changes in cropland use among annual crops, perennial crops and summer-fallow differed substantially depending on soil capability; and (iii) a transition from annual crops and summer-fallow to perennial crops was more likely on land of poorer soil capability, whereas the transition from perennial crops and summer-fallow to annual crops was more likely on land with higher soil capability. The changes in land use practices identified in this study indicate that producers are actively intensifying production on their best land to optimize profitability while simultaneously reducing the intensity of production on poorer land for either financial or environmental reasons, or both.

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