FARMING PRACTICES IN CANADA
Agriculture is important in every country as it contributes a certain percentage towards the economy and more importantly it feeds an entire nation. It also provides employment to many. Not all food crops can be grown in each country due to the climatic conditions, soil type and other agricultural factors of the region. Hence some agricultural products are imported from other countries. This helps improve international trade and communication between other countries. The agriculture and agri-food industry contributes over $110 billion annually to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Canada is the 5th largest agricultural exporter in the world and employs about 2.3 million of its workforce in agriculture. Canada exports oilseeds, grains, pork, beef and livestock. Agriculture has grown in Canada from former times and they have farms that are bigger and specialized. Farming in Canada is done such that there is lower cost of production per unit of farm output as labor is replaced by machinery and technology. The number of people employed in farms has dropped considerably over the years. Use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has contributed towards increase farm output, low unit cost of farm production and lesser labor force. Another factor that has contributed towards increased agricultural production is research that has lead to better crop varieties and improvement in animal breeds.
Canadian farming has become more environment-friendly in that tillage practices have reduced and less summer fallow is carried out to reduce soil erosion and salinity. Organic farming practices have also taken off and it is being practiced in many places across the country. Agriculture is practiced only in 7% of the land area and most of it is located in the western part of Canada (Prairies). Crops grown in these lands are wheat, canola oilseeds, barley, oats, rye, flax, mustard and sunflower. Beef production also occurs in this region. Other areas consist of farms that produce dairy products for the domestic market. 70% of the dairy production occurs in Quebec and Ontario. Other crops grown here are corn and soybean as well as some floriculture products. Vegetables and fruits are grown in Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic province and British Columbia.
Canada just like other nations has the same issues with respect to agriculture such as environment, sustainability, food safety, animal welfare and climate change. Food produce is cheaper in Canada than elsewhere and they enjoy abundant food supplies. Canada lies in the North Temperate Zone and productive farming is one where crops ripen early. Canada needs crops that can tolerate hard winters. The summers are quite warm and temperatures rise to 30°C. Canada imports fruits, vegetables and specialty items. The smaller farms have crops that are grown for farmers own consumption needs.
Canada is a major exporter of maple syrup, flaxseed, canola, pulses, pork products and durum wheat. There are about 10 million beef cattle raised in Canada and about 26 million pigs for pork and pork products.
Region wise crops and food products –
Atlantic Canada – short season soybeans
Quebec – probiotics, dairy products, corn, soybean, floriculture, vegetables, fruits, maple berry, maple syrup, maple sugar, maple butter, sugar beets, beet root sugar, and maple taffy
Ontario – dairy products, corn, soyabean, floriculture, vegetables and fruits
Prairies – wheat, canola oilseeds, rye, barley, oats, flax, mustard, sunflower, beef
British Columbia – hazelnuts, vegetables and fruits
Wheat is the staple crop of Canada with varieties such as durum, spelt and winter wheat being the most common. Other commonly grown crops are rapeseed and alfalfa. Fruits such as apples, pears, plums, peaches, apricots, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, are commonly grown. Livestock commonly grown in Canada are cows, elk, buffalo, pigs, fowl, chicken, geese, ducks, turkeys etc.
Canada has a wide variety of farms, fisheries and ranches that produce crops, livestock, food, feed, fiber, fuel and so on. Canadian agriculture is among the most advanced and sophisticated in the world. Farmers use scientific crop and soil analysis and computer technology to maintain crops and livestock. Most of the livestock is consumed domestically. Currently organic products have gained popularity in Canada. There are currently about 1500 registered organic food producers in the country. There are also about 1593 specialty farms growing Christmas trees, herbs, spices, cut flowers and tobacco.
Canada is the largest importer of agricultural goods. Last year the agricultural exports were about $64.6 billion. Wheat, canola and corn continue to dominate the markets. There are currently about 193,492 farms in Canada. Corn recorded about 170.6 bushels per acre in the recent past in Ontario. Organic farming is continuing to grow with Saskatchewan leading in organic production initially. Currently other states are taking over organic farming and Quebec is the current leader. Quebec’s organic farming is confined to maple syrup, herbs, spices and garlic production. Organic farming is now found in every province in Canada that produces fruits, vegetables, hay, crops, maple products, herbs and animal products. In organic farming importance is given to crop rotation, time of seeding, and green manures to control and manage weeds and pests.
Since pesticides are not used, the organic farmers depend on delay seeding and allow weeds to grow and then kill them prior to seeding the spring crop. Green manure is a forage crop grown for part of the growing season and ploughed back into the soil for nitrogen fixation. Organic farming for animals is a challenge and hence good breed animals must be chosen. Pests and diseases can be controlled by proper herd selection and by using organic products such as diatomaceous earth. This is made by the fossilized remains of diatoms of single-celled algae that are rich in silica. These animals must be able to bear hard winters and hot summers. It is observed that cross-bred herds are more successful than pure-bred.
Organic vegetable and fruit farming depends on compost for soil fertility. Inter-planting, mulching, companion planting and so on are practiced in organic farming. Organic farming sales are topped by milk, vegetables, fruits, beverages, etc. Organic farming faces a lot more challenges as the demand must match the supply.