Prince Edward Island (PEI) has a unique ecological and economic dependence on water quality, which is affected directly by the agricultural systems used. PEI residents rely solely on groundwater as its source of drinking water, and groundwater contributes approximately 70% to surface waters such as streams, rivers, and estuaries. The reliance on the quality of groundwater in PEI by ecosystems and residents coexists within an intensive agricultural sector that is economically important to the province.
Potatoes are grown on over 40% of the 1.4 million acre land base and the crop generates over 75% of the total cash receipts from this cropland. The heavy reliance of nitrogen for this high-value crop grown on the sandy soils of PEI has resulted in significant groundwater nitrate contamination. While the problem of excess nitrates and water quality has attracted the attention of hydrogeologists and agronomists to research the impact of agricultural land management practices on nitrate leachate using hydrologic modelling techniques, little economic analyses on the BMPs to alleviate the problem have been conducted.
The purpose of this research was to examine the cost effectiveness of farming systems to reduce nitrate leaching associated with agriculture in PEI. An integrated economic – hydrologic optimization model was used to estimate the cost of adopting non-traditional beneficial management practices (BMPs) and the resulting impact on nitrate leaching. The most profitable system from the model for producers on high and low quality land is the planting of the Russet Burbank potato variety with GSP fertilizer nitrogen rate and fall tillage timing, which is a validation of the model as these three practices are traditionally adopted in PEI in the absence of nitrate regulations.
In order to disseminate information to end-users, researchers have participated in several workshops:
Additionally, this research has been disseminated through several presentations:
This research has resulted in scholarly journal publications and end-user reports: