Updated: Wed, 13 Feb 2013 09:08:23 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Wind erosion creating red snow on P.E.I.



Wind erosion creating red snow on P.E.I.

Some P.E.I. farmers are arguing for changes in agriculture practice to prevent the Island's top soil from literally blowing away.

Even with two heavy snowfalls this month, the high winds that accompanied them has left some fields bare. Those exposed fields are prone to wind erosion, and that shows up in snow banks so covered in red dust that they look more like sand dunes.

Pork producer Ranald MacFarlane in Central Bedeque, east of Summerside, doesn't like what he sees.

"This happens every year. Every year. The problem is not going to go away," said MacFarlane.

"There are a few farmers doing a good job on conservation, but there are a lot that aren't. And myself included, there are things that are going to have to change."

P.E.I.'s light, sandy soil is naturally prone to erosion, and commercial potato production hinges on use of late-season varieties. That leaves little time for farmers to plant cover crops in the fall. Crops planted in the fall put down roots that hold the soil in place, growing crops or stubble left on the field can also help catch snow to cover the field.

The weather last fall made the problem worse this year.

"We had a lot of challenges this fall because you had the wettest September on record in 2012 and that pushes everything back," said John Jamieson, executive director of the Federation of Agriculture.

"It closes that window on being able to get something on the crop."

Jamieson said more farmers are practising soil conservation. Fall plowing, which contributes to erosion, is less prevalent. MacFarlane said the practice should be banned.

"We're losing our top soil," he said.

"It's like the Newfoundland cod stocks, Some day we'll have a bunch of sad, unemployed people when the resource is gone and they're going to say, 'How did you let this happen?'''

Jamieson said the Federation of Agriculture is talking to the province about expanding soil conservation programs.

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