A 20-year study of soil health on P.E.I. is showing an overall decline in organic matter.

The study was launched by the provincial Department of Agriculture in 1998. Over the course of three-year cycles soil samples have been taken from 600 sites around the Island and compared over the years.

"Our general soil health is starting to decline, so obviously it is a major concern," said Barry Thompson of the provincial Agriculture Department.

pigs

In 2002 there were 400 hog farmers on P.E.I. By 2010 that was down to about 20. A decline in livestock farming has meant less manure for the soil. (The Canadian Press)

"What we're doing is not only are we kind of having a drop in organic matter, we're actually losing our water-holding capacity."

Agriculture Canada researcher Judith Nyiraneza identified three main causes for the decline.

  • Increased erosion in heavy rain events.
  • A declining number of livestock operations, providing less manure for the soil.
  • Frequent tillage.

"This is an average," said Nyrianeza of the trend.

"There may be some farmers who are doing better and some who are doing worse than the overall trend."

Thompson said the province is informing farmers about what the study has found, but he doesn't see any new rules or regulations being introduced at this time.

With files from Island Morning