Environmentally Sustainable Potato Production

Prince Edward Island has been known for many years as “The Garden of the Gulf,” with potatoes being the most plentiful crop coming from that garden.  Potato production is a major contributor to the Island’s economy, with over a billion dollars worth of economic impact each year.  At the same time, PEI potato growers are committed to being good stewards of our “garden.”

Prince Edward Island has the highest percentage of arable land of any Canadian province while also being the most densely populated province.  This means that we truly are farming “in our own backyards,” and as such, are committed to ensuring that our farming practices are both environmentally and economically sustainable.

Improving Soil Health

Prince Edward Island potato growers are at the forefront of efforts to embrace sustainable best management practices that improve the long-term viability of their fields while also having benefits to the greater Island ecosystem.  By building soil organic matter, potato growers not only improve the ability of their fields to retain soil moisture and cycle nutrients but build resilience against a changing climate.

To improve the health of their soils, Prince Edward Island potato growers have invested in research through programs like Living Labs (with Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada and many other partners) and the Agronomy Initiative for Marketable Yield (AIM). In these research programs, trials are conducted on both research farms as well as on-farm trials directly with growers to identify the best management practices (BMPs) that are associated with improving soil health.

Climate-Friendly Potato Production

Prince Edward Island potato growers are also leaders in both research and implementation of BMPs focused on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as well as sequestering carbon in our soils.  By building soil organic matter, growers not only gain many of the benefits from healthier, more resilient soils, but we also take carbon out of the atmosphere.  In addition, many growers are employing enhanced efficiency nitrogen fertilizers that significantly reduce emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. 

Environmental Farm Planning

Prince Edward Island has the highest adoption rate in Canada for completion of Enhanced Environmental Farm Plans, implemented in partnership with the PEI Federation of Agriculture and the PEI Department of Agriculture.

This planning helps farmers develop a practical plan for operating their farm in an environmentally sustainable, socially acceptable, and economically viable manner.  This process involves identifying, evaluating, and addressing all environmental risks and opportunities on the farm.

This includes proper storage of pesticides and fuel, water management, nutrient management, and erosion control.

Protecting Island Waterways

All Prince Edward Island farms follow clearly defined regulations enacted by the provincial government which limit agricultural or industry activity near waterways.  Minimum riparian (or buffer) zones are in effect along all PEI brooks, streams and rivers, as well as near designated wetlands and shorelines.  These regulations are designed to prevent crop inputs such as pesticides or fertilizer, as well as topsoil, from leaving the field during periods of rainfall.

PEI potato growers are committed to maintaining healthy, pollutant-free waterways which provide drinking water to many Islanders as well as serving as habitat for a diverse number of aquatic species.  Many farmers with land that is particularly at risk of soil erosion implement additional soil conservation techniques, including strip cropping, grass waterways, planting of cover crops, and more.

Working Together

Island potato growers draw on the resources of various partners to run sustainable farms.

The industry works in partners with the PEI Department of Agriculture, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, the East Prince Agri-Environment Association, and other partners to educate growers on best management practices, including integrated pest management, improving soil fertility, eliminating soil erosion, and improving plant health.  These are all topics which are critical to having a profitable farm operation that is also environmentally sustainable!

As Myles Rose, a potato grower from North Lake, PEI, says: “Growers have three options when it comes to working the land:  mine, maintain, or build the fertility of the soil.  Our hope is to at least maintain our natural resources, and hopefully to build them for future generations.”