ENHANCING SUSTAINABILITY OF FOOD PRODUCTION SYSTEMS IN THE NORTHEAST
Location: New England Plant, Soil and Water Research Laboratory
Title: Potato production systems in Maine: geospatial assessments of agri-environmental indicators
Submitted to: American Society of Agronomy Meetings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: June 27, 2011
Publication Date: July 22, 2011
Citation: Defauw, S.L., English, P.J., Larkin, R.P., Halloran, J.M., Hoshide, A.K. 2011. Potato production systems in Maine: geospatial assessments of agri-environmental indicators [abstract]. American Society of Agronomy Meetings. Paper No. 64689. Available: http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2011am/webprogram/Paper64689.html.
The sustainability of Maine potato production systems has been a major concern for at least the past 35 years following release of a detailed soil loss investigation conducted in Aroostook County that indicated close to 80% of the most intensively farmed fields were shedding soil at rates of 6.7-190.5 Mg ha-1 annually. Geospatial frameworks help resolve patterns and trends in production environments (at multiple scales) that may, in turn, facilitate the wider adoption of adaptive management strategies which enhance yield, increase whole-farm profitability, and foster sustainable land use. The objectives of this GIS-based investigation were to: (1) inter-relate and quantify potato production areas with statewide classes of farmland soils and erodibility (using USDA, NASS, 2008-2010 Cropland Data Layers (CDLs) and USDA, NRCS, State Survey Geographic (SSURGO) soils database); (2) examine rotational patterns based on three years of CDL classified imagery; and (3) evaluate potential economic impacts of select alternate cropping systems identified in potato production fields. Results from geospatial integration of remotely-sensed cropland (2008-2010) and soil datasets for Maine indicate an estimated 61,900 ha in potato production with 62% and 27% on prime farmland (PF) and farmland of statewide importance (FSI), respectively. Zonal geoprocessing of farmland rasters with erodibility rasters indicated that close to 85% of potato production soils are classified as either “potentially highly erodible” (PHEL) or “highly erodible” (HEL); therefore, at least 52,300 ha require the highest standards in soil conservation practices. Across all three years, over 1,800 ha were identified in “continuous potato” where improving crop-soil-water-pest management practices and monitoring resistance issues are most crucial. Potatoes in a two-yr rotation amounted to 11,900 ha. Additional outcomes suggest farmers have diversified their operations and appear to be shifting to rotations of 3 or more years. Rotation summaries highlighted 8 ‘major’ crops with mapped extents typically exceeding 1,000 ha yr-1 that included (from most extensive to least) oat, barley, other hay, rye, pasture, broccoli, clover, and corn. Crop rotation strategies typically occupying less than 500 ha yr-1 included spring wheat, canola, soybean, and alfalfa. Disease-suppressive benefits and economic impacts for select alternate crops are discussed.