Canadian farmers are good stewards of the land and have long cared for the environment. They are on the front lines of climate change, and the first to feel its effects. To adapt to the new climate reality, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and farmers are working together to speed up the adoption of more environmentally friendly practices and technologies in order to protect the environment and continue to be leaders in sustainable agriculture.
This is the mantra behind Living Lab – Atlantic, a four-year research collaboration between AAFC, farmers and environmental organizations on Prince Edward Island that began in 2019. There are over 20 Prince Edward Island farms along with dozens of scientists and technicians across Atlantic Canada participating in Living Lab – Atlantic. Their research is addressing several key areas impacting farmers, including soil health, water quality management and crop productivity. The farming practices they are studying and expertise gained will be shared with farmers across Canada to increase adoption.
This series of four articles takes you through the different Living Lab - Atlantic sites across Prince Edward Island to showcase the work farmers and scientists are doing to contribute to environmental sustainability in agriculture.
For this month's Living Lab – Atlantic field trip stop, we look at how farm fields are rarely created equally and the innovative tools being used to get the most out of each field. Small changes to soil consistency, moisture holding capabilities of soil and land topography impact how crops react to the amount of fertilizer, pesticides and water used. To better understand the subtle changes from field to field, farmers are adopting precision agriculture technology, allowing them to conserve water and reduce fertilizer and pesticide use. Precision agriculture uses technology to help farmers pinpoint what their crops need based on their unique fields so that they can do the right thing, in the right place, at the right time.
Located about 40 minutes west of Charlottetown is the picturesque and agriculture-rich community of Spring Valley, Prince Edward Island. As part of Living Lab – Atlantic, farmers and scientists are studying precision agriculture technologies such as thermal sensors on drones. Thermal imaging can detect drought stress of potato crops prior to displaying visible signs, and map the changes across fields Located about 40 minutes west of Charlottetown is the picturesque and agriculture-rich community of Spring Valley, Prince Edward Island. As part of Living Lab – Atlantic, farmers and scientists are studying precision agriculture technologies such as thermal sensors on drones. Thermal imaging can detect drought stress of potato crops prior to displaying visible signs, and map the changes across fields.
University of Prince Edward Island Climate Lab scientist and Living Lab – Atlantic collaborator, Stephanie Arnold, explains that farmers need to account for the differences within each field for precise farming techniques.
"What's good for one area of a field in terms of watering crops may not work for another area. Precision agriculture allows farmers to take the guess work out of their farm management strategies."
In the end, this imaging is helping farmers to see which crops might need more or less water to survive and thrive. Most importantly, it's conserving water because farmers know precisely which crops need water, how much to add and when to water them. This approach even helps improve the harvest and quality of potatoes.
Join us next time as we travel to our next field in Souris, Prince Edward Island.
Visit Living Lab – Atlantic for more information about the initiative.
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