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 economy, with over a billion dollars worth of economic impact each year. At the same time, PEI potato growers are committed to be 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.
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 & Forestry. This planning helps farmers develop a practical plan for operating their farm in a way that is environmental sustainable, socially acceptable, and economically viable. 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 applications 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.
Island potato growers draw on the resources of various partners to run sustainable farms. The industry works in partnership with the PEI Department of Agriculture and Forestry to educate growers on best management practices, including integrated pest management, improving soil fertility, eliminating soil erosion, and improving plant health. These are all tops 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.”