Chapter 5

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No-till practices increased

Traditionally, most farmers utilized conventional tillage, however, in recent decades farmers have increasingly substituted conventional tillage with no-till seeding techniques or conservation tillage. No-till is less ecologically disruptive as specialized machinery is used to slice a thin slit into the soil to deposit seeds. Conservation tillage is also less disturbing of soil ecology as the depth of furrows is between that of no-till and conventional tillage.

The total area of land prepared for seeding has stayed close to 70 million acres in Canada since 1991, rising to just over 73 million acres in 2011. In 2011, 84.8% of land prepared for seeding was located in the Prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

For the first time, no-till practices accounted for more than half of all area prepared for seeding across the country, a shift that was caused by a 23.8% increase in the area of land seeded using no-till practices (Figure 24). Overall, 17.1% more farms reported using no-till practices than in 2006.

No-till systems are dominant in the Prairies, where large farm sizes and erosion-prone soils enhance the environmental and financial benefits of low-impact, one-pass seeding. In Eastern Canada, Quebec doubled its no-till area to more than half a million acres as the number of farms using this practice rose by 69.0%. This increase was in part due to a government incentive for farm operators employing no-till practices between 2009 and 2013.

Figure 24: Proportion of area prepared for seeding according to tillage practice, Canada, 1991 to 2011

Although no-till seeding is not suited for all types of crop farming and requires a significant investment in machinery, it nonetheless provides important benefits to farmers. Foremost, no-till reduces the time required for seeding crops, while using considerably less fuel in the process. In addition, no-till seeding has many ecological advantages, such as improved soil structure, enhanced moisture penetration and retention, and reduced soil compaction and land erosion.

A shift to no-till seeding also accounted for the decrease in land area allocated to summerfallow, a land management practice that involves leaving land unplanted so it can rebuild soil moisture while controlling weeds in semi-arid regions of the Prairie provinces.

The area of land subject to conventional tillage declined by 30.9% since 2006, accounting for 19.0% of all land prepared for seeding in 2011. It remains a common practice in some parts of the country as a result of the type of crops grown and soil characteristics.

Less irrigation in 2010

A total of 1.9 million acres of land was reported as irrigated for 2010, 8.9% lower than for 2005.

The decrease in total area irrigated across Canada was largely attributed to the above-average precipitation in several regions of the country in 2010. The most significant decrease was in irrigated hay and pasture land, which declined by 17.9% to 550,260 acres.

The majority of irrigation continued to be reported for field crops and hay, followed by vegetables, fruit and other crops.

Alberta continued to report the largest area of land irrigated in the country with 65.2% of the total, most of which was irrigated field crops and irrigated hay and pasture.

British Columbia reported the second largest area of land irrigated with 14.4% of the national total. British Columbia continued to report the largest area of irrigated fruit crops in Canada, with the fruit area irrigated increasing 21.3% in this province to a total of 48,077 acres. This offset the decrease in fruit irrigation in some other provinces, such as Ontario, resulting in a national increase of 5.2%.

Irrigation on vegetable crops across Canada decreased 16.3% to 89,987 acres. Most of the vegetable irrigation was on Ontario farms, despite a decrease of 18.9% in the province in 2010 compared to 2005.

Manure and commercial fertilizer

The proportion of farms that reported using or producing manure in 2010 decreased to 55.0% from 59.4% in 2005. Much of this decrease can be attributed to the declining number of cattle operations. Beef-typed operations continued to account for the largest proportion (29.7%) of operations reporting manure, despite a decrease from 39.8% in 2005, due to the overall drop in beef cattle numbers. The second largest contributor was dairy-typed farms (10.7%).

Solid or composted manure was mechanically applied to 4.3 million acres of land across Canada in 2010. Beef cattle operations were the farm type that applied solid or composed manure to the largest land area, followed by dairy farms. Western Canada had just over half of the total land area on which solid or composted manure was spread, and this was due to the fact that the majority of beef cattle operations were located in Alberta.

Liquid manure was mechanically applied to 2.8 million acres in 2010. Hog and pig and dairy operations were most likely to spread liquid manure. In 2010, 70.1% of the area on which liquid manure was applied was in Quebec and Ontario, where the majority of dairy farms are located.

Across Canada, commercial fertilizer was applied to 61.6 million acres of land and lime was added to 950 thousand acres in 2010. In both cases the total area of land receiving these inputs remained similar in 2005 and 2010.

Crop Residue

Across Canada, farm operators reported a total of 5.9 million acres of land from which crop residue (straw, stover, stalks) was baled in 2010. This question was new to the 2011 Census of Agriculture. Uses for baled crop residue include animal bedding and erosion control.

More organic operations

A change in regulations

In 2009, the Organic Products Regulations came into effect in Canada, which require mandatory certification to revised Canadian Organic Standards in order to claim agricultural products as being organic in import, export and inter-provincial trade, or in order to use the Canada organic logo. Organic operations are certified through certifying bodies accredited by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the authority providing oversight to the system.

According to the new regulations, producers can be either "certified organic" or "transitional". Transitional producers are those who were in the process of undertaking the three-year process of having all or part of their operations certified organic at the time of the 2011 Census of Agriculture.

The number of certified organic farms continued to grow

The number of certified organic operations increased 4.4% in Canada since 2006, and 66.5% since 2001, to 3,713 operations in 2011. Certified organic operations represented 1.8% of all farms in Canada, compared to 1.5% in 2006, and 0.9% in 2001 (Table 11).

Table 11
Number of organic operations, Canada, 2001 to 2011
Census of Agriculture Total certified and/or transitional operations* Certified organic operations Transitional organic operations Certified organic as a percent of total operations
2011 4,120 3,713 543 1.8
2006 3,898 3,555 640 1.5
2001 .. 2,230 .. 0.9

Among those provinces that increased their number of certified organic operations between 2006 and 2011, Quebec and Ontario had the greatest gains, growing by 198 farms and 81 farms, respectively. Quebec already had provincial legislation mandating certification for organic production prior to the introduction of the Organic Products Regulation in 2009.

Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan all showed decreases in the number of certified organic farms since 2006. Saskatchewan had the highest number of certified organic operations at 1,015 despite a 14.1% decrease since 2006. Quebec, with the second greatest number of certified organic operations, gained on Saskatchewan (Figure 25).

Figure 25: Number of certified organic operations by province, 2001 to 2011

Field crops and hay remained the largest certified organic product category

The largest product category of certified organic production remained field crops and hay, although the number of operations decreased slightly since 2006. Organic fruit, vegetable, and greenhouse production was the only other category that decreased (Figure 26).

Figure 26: Product categories reported by certified organic operations, Canada, 2006 and 2011

Quebec led in terms of the number of certified organic maple operations and saw the largest increase in number of farms. British Columbia continued to report the largest number of operations for certified organic fruit, vegetable, and greenhouse production across Canada. Quebec and British Columbia led the new category of organic herbs, spices or garlic, with 32.4% and 31.8%, respectively, of the certified organic operations across Canada in this category.

Most certified organic farms were in the $50,000 to $99,999 and $100,000 to $249,999 gross farm receipts classes. Almost all categories showed growth in the proportion of certified organic farms (Figure 27).

Figure 27: Proportion of all farms with certified organic status by gross farm receipts class (at 2010 constant prices), Canada, 2006 and 2011

Less than half of farms reported high-speed Internet access

The percentage of farms that were using the internet for farm business increased from 34.9% in 2006 to 55.6% in 2011.

In 2011, 44.8% of all farms reported having access to high-speed Internet. Across the country, self-reported access to high-speed Internet on all farms ranged from a low of 40.6% in Quebec to a high of 49.5% in Prince Edward Island. Comparatively, in the general population, the latest data from the Canadian Internet Use Survey showed that three-quarters of all Canadian households reported home high-speed Internet access in 2010.

A dynamic industry

The 2011 Census of Agriculture shows that the Canadian agricultural sector has continued to expand in scale of operation, consolidate, and adapt its mix of farming practices and commodities.

Capturing the state of the agriculture industry at a point in time allows for a portrait of a dynamic and increasingly complex industry every 5 years at a regional, provincial, and national scale. In addition, census data going back over 90 years allows for the analysis of long term trends, structural changes and traces the history of this primary industry.

Statistics Canada would like to thank the Canadian farming community for their participation and assistance in the 2011 Census of Agriculture.

For further information regarding the Census of Agriculture, contact Statistics Canada's National Contact Centre at 613-951-8116 or toll-free 1-800-263-1136; infostats@statcan.gc.ca.

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Rosemary Villani at 613-951-2889, Census of Agriculture, Agriculture Division.

Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 

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