Lynn Betts, NRCS
Agricultural lands include cultivated
lands (orchards, nurseries, crops) as well as animal farming operations.
Cultivated lands make up the single largest category of land cover within
the project area, occupying nearly 50 percent of the total area . Cultivated
lands impact habitat by altering the natural vegetative cover. Habitats
are destroyed as forests, wetlands and other natural vegetation are cleared,
drained and/or diked for agriculture.
Agricultural lands are an important source of soil erosion and sedimentation,
chemical runoff (herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides) and nutrient
runoff (nitrogen and phosphorous). Impacts to habitats near cultivated
land can range widely depending on the specific crop and farming practices.
Sustainable farming practices such as no or low-till farming allow all
or some crop residue to remain on the land, reducing soil erosion and
sedimentation. Crop rotation and contour farming improve soil quality
and crop productivity. Organic farming and integrated pest management
eliminate or reduce use of agricultural chemicals, thus their runoff into
nearby streams, rivers and lakes. A number of Canadian and U.S. federal,
state and provincial programs have been developed to encourage farmers
to adopt practices that provide some conservation and/or habitat value.
Broader implementation of sustainable agricultural practices and whole
farm planning can help offset the impacts of producing food and fiber
and improve the relationship between habitat and agriculture. Additional
incentives and rewards are needed for farmers. Governments at all levels
can augment education and outreach to the farming community and vice-versa
so that policy is responsive to and reflects actual field experience.
For more information, see: Habitat
Assessment, Section V (PDF)