Factors that influence shelterbelt retention and removal in prairie agriculture as identified by Saskatchewan producers
Van Rees, K.C.J.
The role of shelterbelts in prairie agriculture is changing. Traditionally, shelterbelts were promoted and adopted for soil stabilization and protection of farm infrastructure, equipment, and livestock from harsh weather elements; however, advances in production technology, larger scale operations, and the removal of a subsidy (distribution of free seedlings) have changed the context in which shelterbelts are currently being maintained, planted, or removed. This research identified the factors that are influencing producer’s management decisions related to retention and adoption of shelterbelts in the early 21st century in Saskatchewan, Canada. In the summer of 2013, surveys were conducted with producers from throughout the province of Saskatchewan (and several from Alberta). From the surveys, costs, benefits, and factors influencing producer’s management decisions, related to shelterbelts in the farm operations, were identified. Survey results show that 40% of the produces removed shelterbelts from their operations. Reasons for such decisions included: high labor requirements, difficulty in the operation of large equipment, and loss of land for production. Those who did not remove shelterbelts recognized their non-economic values more than those who removed them. Shelterbelts have the potential to play a major role in climate change mitigation by sequestering significant amounts of atmospheric CO2 into the soil and as biomass carbon in aboveground and belowground biomass of planted shelterbelt trees or shrubs within the agricultural landscape, both presently and in the future. As a result, understanding the context in which producers are making decisions related to this agroforestry practice will be important from a policy perspective.
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