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Land productivity

Alberta 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 base - tonnes 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. Summerfallow - when the land is left unplanted during the growing season - is 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.