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Defining and analyzing agricultural production systems to determine the capacity to make soil and nutrient management improvements in the Canadian Lake Erie basin

Joosse, P., Reid, K., Huffman, T. and Feisthauer, N. 2016. Defining and analyzing agricultural production systems to determine the capacity to make soil and nutrient management improvements in the Canadian Lake Erie basin. American Society of Agronomy, Phoenix, AZ November 7-10, 2016.

Abstract

Domestic action plans to reduce excess phosphorus entering Lake Erie are to be developed in the US and Canada by 2018 under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Non-point agricultural sources contribute the majority of the P load to the lake. While it is recognized that not all landscapes are equal contributors of phosphorus, it is also true that not all agricultural production systems in the basin are equal in their contribution or capacity to reduce phosphorus losses. Characterizing agriculture within the basin is important to appropriately scope and scale the opportunities to reduce P in the Canadian context. A farming systems typology was developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists and used to classify individual farms from the Census of Agriculture into particular production systems. Nutrient and soil management metrics are calculated from census data and models to compare within and across systems. Production systems were also identified by a crop rotation ruleset applied to remotely sensed crop inventory maps to provide more geospatially explicit information. Geospatial links will be made between production systems and the landscapes they are situated on as part of the assessment of the relative importance of management among systems. Results of the project provide an objective basin-wide assessment of: 1) the extent of crop rotation and tillage practices that influence soil cover and erosion; and, 2) the nutrient assimilative capacity of the land base associated with manure. This information provides scale and perspective to the relative opportunities different production systems have to make environmental improvements, and to the messages used in knowledge and technology transfer to different production system audiences.

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