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Chapter 6

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Geography 2153A/B
Jamie Baxter

CHAPTER 6: AGROECOSYSTEMS AND LAND RESOURCES CANADA’S AGRICULTURAL LAND BASE -environmental concerns associated with agricultural activities include: soil fertility, water quality, loss of wildlife habitat and wetlands, pesticide and herbicide use, and the effects of biotechnology on biodiversity -other effects of industrialization and agro ecosystems relate to globalization of the food system and food security -Canada Land Inventory (CLI) – one of the largest land inventories undertaken in the world – provides information regarding the long-term capabilities of about 2.6 million square kilometers of land to support agriculture, outdoor recreation, forestry, waterfowl, and ungulates -the CLI categorized Canada’s soil capability for agriculture into seven classes – classes 1-3 is the supply of coil capability, which provide Canada’s dependable agricultural land base for crop production -Canada does not have any vast agricultural reserves – virtually all the land that is amendable to agricultural production and that has not been built on or paved over is in agricultural use AGROECOSYSTEMS: communities of living organisms, together with the physical resources that sustain them, such as biotic elements of the underlying soils and drainage networks, that are managed for the purpose of producing food, fibre, and other agricultural products – these are complex and dynamic ecological processes and systems; with many interrelationships – any actions in one component will affect another component and ecosystem EVENTS ON SOIL RESOURCES -soil resource quality refers to the ability of the soil to support crop growth without resulting in soil degradation or other harm to the environment -soil quality is affected by land use ad by land management practices -growing a single species over a large area (MONOCULTURE CROPPING), leaving the land fallow, intensive row cropping (where bare soil is exposed in the spaces between crop rows), up and down slope cultivation contribute to the processes that reduce soil quality -the above processes result in loss of organic matter; erosion of wind, water, and tillage; changes in soil structure; salinization; and chemical contamination -organic matter is the source of key plant nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulphur -organic matter improves the physical and chemical properties of soil by sotrying and supplying plant nutrients, retaining carbon, helping water infilterate into soil, stabilizing soil, and reducing the risk of crusting the soil surface -organic matter promotes movement of oxygen and carbon dioxide through the soil, enabling soil organisms such as algae, fungi, and cyanobacteria to thrive -the amount of organic matter in agricultural soils varies between 1 and 10 percent; how much is optimal depends on local climate, the amount of clay in the soil, and the intended use of the land -erosion of soil by wind and water is the most widespread soil degradation problem in Canada; natural processes are accelerated or minimized by the types of cropping and land management practices used -risks of wind and water erosion can be reduced through changes in land tillage practices, including reductions in summerfallow (land not sown for at least one year to conserve soil moisture and to enhance nitrogen accumulation), changes in cropping patterns, and use of erosion control measures -tilling (plowing) the land, particularly on rolling or hummocky land where gravity moves soil downhill during plowing operations, contributes to loss of topsoil -if topsoil is blown or washed away, carbon and nitrogen are lost, and the remaining soil has a reduced ability to provide the fertility required for crops, as well as a lowered capacity to accept and store water and support microorganisms -if eroded topsoil is carried into water bodies, detrimental effects such as blocked waterways, buried vegetation, smothered fish, and increased costs of water treatment can occur -not only is soil loss by water erosion costly in terms of reduced crop pro
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