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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 94 No. 2, p. 216-230
    Received: Feb 8, 2000

    * Corresponding author(s): zentnerr@em.agr.ca


Economics of Crop Diversification and Soil Tillage Opportunities in the Canadian Prairies

  1. Robert P. Zentner *a,
  2. David D. Walla,
  3. Cecil N. Nagyb,
  4. Elwin G. Smithc,
  5. Doug L. Youngd,
  6. Perry R. Millere,
  7. Con A. Campbella,
  8. Brian G. McConkeya,
  9. Stewart A. Brandtf,
  10. Guy P. Lafondg,
  11. Adrian M. Johnstonh and
  12. Doug A. Derkseni
  1. a Agric. and Agri-Food Canada, Semiarid Prairie Agric. Res. Cent., Box 1030, Swift Current, SK, Canada S9H 3X2
    b Dep. of Agric. Econ., Univ. of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada S7N 4A5
    c Agric. and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge Res. Cent., Box 3000 Main, Lethbridge, AB, Canada T1J 4B1
    d Dep. of Agric. Econ., Washington State Univ., Box 696210, Pullman, WA 99164-6210
    e Dep. of Land Resour. and Environ. Sci., Box 173120, Leon Johnson Hall, Montana State Univ., Bozeman, MT 59717-3120
    f Agric. and Agri-Food Canada, Scott Res. Farm, Box 10, Scott, SK, Canada S0K 4A0
    g Agric. and Agri-Food Canada, Indian Head Res. Farm, Box 760, Indian Head, SK, Canada S0G 2K0
    h Potash and Phosphate Inst. of Canada, Suite 704, CN Tower, Saskatoon, SK, Canada S7K 1J5
    i Agric. and Agri-Food Canada, Brandon Res. Cent., Box 1000A RR 3, Brandon, MB, Canada R7A 5Y3


Annual crop production in the Canadian prairies is undergoing significant change. Traditional monoculture cereal cropping systems, which rely on frequent summer-fallowing and use of mechanical tillage, are being replaced by extended and diversified crop rotations together with the use of conservation tillage (minimum and zero-tillage) practices. This paper reviews the findings of western Canadian empirical studies that have examined the economic forces behind these land use and soil tillage changes. The evidence suggests that including oilseed and pulse crops in the rotation with cereal grains contributes to higher and more stable net farm income in most soil–climatic regions, despite a requirement for increased expenditures on purchased inputs. In the very dry Brown soil zone and drier regions of the Dark Brown soil zone where the production risk with stubble cropping is high, the elimination of summer fallow from the cropping system may not be economically feasible under present and near-future economic conditions. The use of conservation tillage practices in the management of mixed cropping systems is highly profitable in the more moist Black and Gray soil zones (compared with conventional mechanical tillage methods) because of significant yield advantages and substantial resource savings that can be obtained by substituting herbicides for the large amount of tillage that is normally used. However, in the Brown soil zone and parts of the Dark Brown soil zone, the short-term economic benefits of using conservation tillage practices are more marginal and often less profitable than comparable conventional tillage practices.

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Copyright © 2002. American Society of AgronomyPublished in Agron. J.94:216–230.