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Perennial changes in Ontario's farm landscape

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Title: Perennial changes in Ontario's farm landscape
Author: Corry, Robert
Department: School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
Abstract: Farming in Ontario is among Canada’s most-intensive, particularly with respect to concentrations of livestock and row-crop production. As agriculture intensifies, the proportion of the rural landscape devoted to annual vegetation (crops) increases at the expense of perennial vegetation. While farming has traditionally been based upon rotations of annual row crops with perennial forages to maintain or enhance soil structure and fertility, this type of rotation is in decline in intensively-farmed regions. Multiple perspectives favour perennial vegetation over annual crop plants: agronomy and pedology for crop production and soil tilth; ecology for better biodiversity and habitat; hydrology as a way to reduce overland flow velocities and filter sediments from runoff; landscape architecture for visible heterogeneity, care, and stewardship. Yet farmers increasingly choose annual row crop plants over perennial cover options with only modest variations. This paper uses agricultural census data to describe changes in crop types and rotation sequences over several decades, and it uses environmental assessments of agriculture to understand implications of changes in crop type and rotation. Information gathered from in-depth conversations with a few innovative Ontario crop and livestock farmers examines common rationales behind changing farm practices. Findings focus on farmers’ preferred and common cropping practices and the drivers for crop choices, sequencing, and management. Identified drivers behind farmland composition change point to ways to provide more perennial cover in rural landscapes with all of the accompanying consequences.
Description: Paper presented at IFLA50 in Auckland, New Zealand, April 10-12, 2013. Published in Renee Davies (Ed.), Dr. Diane Menzies (Ed.), Proceedings for the 50th IFLA World Congress, ISBN 978-0-473-24360-9.
Date: 2013-04-10

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