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Topsoil erosion can result in a significant loss of productivity and crop yield. Keeping soil in its place helps to ensure the long-term productivity of the soil and also reduces unintended loss of soil and nutrients from our fields to ecologically sensitive areas.


Planting a cover crop after the main commercial crop has been harvested can provide numerous soil health benefits to the land and helps reduce erosion over the winter/spring.

What it does

  • Conserves soil moisture
  • Increases soil organic matter
  • Prevents soil erosion
  • Suppresses weeds
  • Increases nutrient cycling
  • Reduces off-season nutrient loss
  • Reduces compaction

Why it matters

  • Improves water efficiency to crops
  • Conserves water
  • Improves water quality
  • Improves crop production
  • Improves nutrient use efficiency
  • Decreases use of pest control products


Island soil is very porous, like a sponge, and over-tilling of the soil can weaken its structure leading to soils that are hard, compacted or inefficient at holding water and nutrients. To support the soil, PEI farmers reduce tillage passes, use tillage equipment that causes less disturbance to the soil, as well as time tillage events to times of the year that will reduce erosion susceptibility due to precipitation, such as tilling in the spring instead of the fall.

What it does

  • Reduces soil erosion
  • Improves soil capacity to hold water
  • Increases organic matter
  • Decreases compaction
  • Reduces energy use

Why it matters

  • Improves water efficiency
  • Conserves water
  • Improves water quality
  • Improves crop production
  • Saves renewable resources
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions


Island farmers can take advantage of funding support and expertise from Soil and Water Conservation Specialists under the AGRICULTURE STEWARDSHIP PROGRAM to design and implement Soil Conservation/Erosion Control structures. These are berms, terraces, and waterways constructed in the farm fields to slow and direct the flow of water to reduce and prevent erosion.

Agriculture Stewardship Program supported by Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership


BERMS: Berms are used to control erosion and sedimentation by reducing the rate of surface runoff. The berms either reduce the velocity of the water, or direct water to areas that are not susceptible to erosion, thereby reducing the adverse effects of running water on exposed topsoil. Berms often run perpendicular to terraces. Over 1.6 million ft (488 km) of farmable berms have been constructed on PEI since 1990.
BUFFER ZONES: These are areas near waterways that are not cultivated, and protect the aquatic life from agricultural runoff. Extended Buffer Zones are land areas which are beyond the provincial-set minimum, and give more room for ecosystem development and environmental protection.
GRASSED WATERWAYS: These are shallow channels with established vegetation, usually built where there is potential for excessive soil erosion. The grass is able to hold the soil together, reducing soil disturbance and safely transporting runoff away from environmentally sensitive areas. PEI Department of Agriculture has designed and constructed 2.7 million ft (823 km) of grassed waterways since 1990.
MULCHING: A good example is using hay, a practice known as "hay mulching", which can help protect the soil from erosion and water loss while it is on the field surface, but also can contribute to building organic matter after it is worked in in the spring due to its high carbon content.
STRIP CROPPING: Strip cropping is a method of cultivation in which a variety of crops are sown in alternating strips in a single field. It is a type of intercropping that involves planting crops in distinct rows that can be separately managed, and it helps reduce soil erosion, especially on sloped lands.
TERRACES: Terraces transform long slopes into a series of shorter slopes, and reduce the rate of runoff and allow soil particles to settle out resulting in cleaner water being carried off the field. Generally, terraces are built up in the same direction as cropping. Since 1990, 1.6 million ft (488 km) of terraces have been designed and constructed.
TILLAGE/TILLING: Tillage, or tilling, often involves turning over the first 6 – 10 inches of soil before planting new crops. This practice works surface crop residues, animal manure and weeds deep into the field, blending it into the soil. However tillage loosens or removes any plant matter covering the soil, leaving it bare and more susceptible to erosion. This is why PEI farmers continually seek out low-impact tillage practices and/or planting no-till required crops.
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