Farmers get crop rotation education

Farmers on P.E.I. are being offered lessons on the province's tight crop rotation rules.

Farmers on P.E.I. are being offered lessons on the province's strict crop rotation rules.

A number of farmers have been charged because they're not properly rotating the crops in their fields, says the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, and it believes further education will help farmers get it right.

Farmer Peter Townshend gestures towards a field where potatoes have been rotated out for wheat. (CBC)

Farmer Peter Townshend is helping out with the courses. Townshend said there is a lot of value in PEI's Agricultural Crop Rotation Act.

"I think it works reasonably well. We don't want to be harming the land," he said.

The law is meant to keep up the nutrient levels in the Island's soil, and to prevent runoff from ending up in streams. The rules allow farmers to grow potatoes only once every three years on any field. Farmers have been adapting in order to maximize their earnings.

"We've kind of gotten away from the traditional potatoes, barley, hay rotation," said Townshend.

"Now you might see potatoes, soy beans, wheat. So they're trying to generate some revenue in the other crops."

Charges for violations of the crop rotation act are fairly rare according to Alvin Keenan, president of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, but there are steep fines for those who are convicted.

"It is devastating in some examples, you know, because the margins are so thin," said Keenan.

"Along with that, it takes their eye off the ball, which is running their own farm operation and caring for their crops."

Keenan believes the charges are a result of the increased attention on fish kills connected to farm runoff.

The federation is hoping to help farmers learn their rights and responsibilities, in an effort to keep the image of the industry clean.