ENHANCING SUSTAINABILITY OF FOOD PRODUCTION SYSTEMS IN THE NORTHEAST
Location: New England Plant, Soil and Water Research Laboratory
Title: Geospatial assessments of potato production systems in Maine
Submitted to: Northeast Potato Technology Forum
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: March 1, 2011
Publication Date: March 16, 2011
Citation: Defauw, S.L., Larkin, R.P. 2011. Geospatial assessments of potato production systems in Maine [abstract]. Northeast Potato Technology Forum. p. 27-29.
Although Maine produces high quality potatoes, the average marketable yield is substantially lower than production areas in the western USA. Potential factors affecting yield include soil-water availability (timing of water stress and stress alleviation events), pest and disease control strategies, end of season crop management (ESCM) practices, crop rotation, soil quality, and soil conservation efforts. Geospatial assessments of select biophysical soil properties linked to topographic characterizations of potato production areas in Maine have revealed insightful trends (at multiple scales) that may enable improvements in adaptive management strategies and result in enhanced yield and sustainable management. The objectives of this GIS-based investigation were to:(1) quantify field, farmscape and sub-regional patterns of potato production areas using USDA, NASS, 2008-2010 Cropland Data Layers (CDLs);(2) evaluate rotational patterns;(3) relate potato field distributions to statewide classes of farmland soils and erodibility (using USDA, NRCS, State Survey Geographic (SSURGO) soils database); and(4) begin to examine the dynamics of hydropedologic and solar radiation interactions (derived from digital elevation models or DEMs) that may impact cultivar-specific potato yields. Results from geoprocessing crop and soil layers on an annual time-step indicated potato field extents for 2008-2010 occupied 26,800-29,300 ha, with an estimated 63-67% of crop totals situated on prime farmland soils. Production areas in potato from year to year (coupling 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 CDL datasets) averaged 5,100 ha. Collectively (across all three years), over 1,800 ha were identified in “continuous potato” with the largest clustered tracts in Aroostook (approximately 1,600 ha), Oxford (140 ha), and Penobscot counties (20 ha). The biennial return to potato production (2-yr rotation) amounted to slightly over 14,000 ha. Merging all three years of CDL data resulted in an estimated 61,900 ha in potato production – an underestimate of true production area due to rotational complexities. Of additional concern is the fact that most “prime farmland” soils in Maine are also designated as “potentially highly erodible”; our results indicate at least 33,400 ha merit our highest standards in soil conservation efforts. Use of geospatial technologies helps us visualize/resolve patterns in production environments. Ground-truthing these patterns coupled with identifying site-specific details associated with agroecosystem processes will aid us in optimizing nutrient and pest management strategies and, thus, ultimately contribute to the sustainability of our diversified farm systems.