Some Say Banning Fall Plowing Will Save Soil

Published online: Oct 22, 2013 Potato Harvesting
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A livestock producer in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island plans to petition the province to end a type of fall plowing he says leaves soil vulnerable to winter erosion.

"I'm going to make a prediction," Fernwood farmer Ranald MacFarlane told CBC News.

"This winter we're going to have not a lot of snow or anything, and we're going to have high winds and a drying of the soil, and there will be topsoil blowing over the snow and blowing all over people's houses, like it was last year."

MacFarlane is frustrated seeing farmers turn the soil over in the fall with moldboard plows, leaving no vegetation on the surface. He said there are types of fall plowing which leave some plant matter, stalks and sod on the surface, which helps hold the soil on fields.

But longtime potato grower and P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture president Alvin Keenan said moldboard plowing is necessary. He says leftover vegetation makes the next year's potato work more difficult.

"We have to allow the residue to break down," said Keenan. "Our equipment today goes under the soil and clay falls down through the rods and that's the only way to sort the potatoes out of the soil."

P.E.I.'s Department of Agriculture says government does not regulate fall plowing and has no plans to do so. Ranald MacFarlane is hoping he can gather enough signatures on a petition to make the department reconsider.