Agriculture, Food and Rural Development uses the Alberta land productivity index
to measure progress in land stewardship. Wise land management is essential to
produce good yields of healthy crops to feed Albertans and the world.
The index is
calculated yearly based on the yields of major cereals, oilseed and forage crops
in tonnes. To allow for differences in the relative weights of different crops,
production per acre for each crop is converted to a standard basetonnes per
acre of wheat equivalent yield. This allows for productivity comparisons without
the need to worry about differentiating between crop choices.
The index shows
that crop yield has grown steadily over the last 45 years, with improved land
management practices. Crops use nutrients from the soil in order to grow and
produce seeds. Farmers use manure and chemical fertilizers to replace the
nutrients to meet the needs of the next crop. The increase in crop yields shows
that farmers are successfully improving land productivity.
The data used to
calculate the index show that the total harvested acres have also increased over
the last 45 years. In recent years, the increased area has been primarily due to
a decrease in the amount of summerfallow. Summerfallowwhen the land is left
unplanted during the growing seasonis used by some farmers to store soil
moisture in dry areas or to control specific weed problems. However,
summerfallow land is at risk to soil degradation because the soil surface is
left exposed to the elements. The decrease in summerfallow acres is a positive
and important management factor in improving soil quality and land productivity.
Department of the Environment. State of the Environment Report, Terrestrial Ecosystems. Edmonton: n.p., 2001. With permission from Alberta Environment.