Student Projects: Agricultural Land and Water


Wasted Food in Canada and Its Impact on Water Resources

Small Fruits in Creston, BC: A Case Study

Sodiya Oluwaseun, MLWS 2019

Globally, there is a growing consensus that we need to act to address food loss and waste. Food waste refers to food intended for consumption that is discarded without being eaten or reaching the market. In Canada, this amount is closer to 40% according to Value Chain Management International (2014). Food loss and waste have many negative economic and environmental impacts. Environmentally, food waste inflicts a host of impacts, including emission of greenhouse gases and inefficient use of water and land, which in turn can lead to diminished natural ecosystems services.

In B.C, approximately 2.3 million tonnes of food waste was disposed of in 2016 (VCM Inc) and Creston Valley being one of the prime agricultural production regions in B.C contributes to this figure. It is suggested that the Creston Valley will continue to be the hub of agriculture in the region of B.C. Fruits and vegetables are one of the largest sources of waste by weight. Much of the wasted weight in fruits and vegetables is water.

Sustainable Agriculture – The Contribution of Biostimulation

Likhita Kiran Miriyapalli, MLWS 2019

To meet the growing demand for food production, due to the rapidly increasing population, there is a need for sustainable agricultural systems that are economically viable, environmentally safe and socially fair. Social concerns of conventional farming combined with the growing demand for sustainable agriculture and food safety have led to the emergence of alternative agricultural systems. Those emerging innovations and agricultural practices play a crucial role in ensuring sustainable food production systems. One of such innovations is plant biostimulation, which may make existing practices more efficient and sustainable. “Plant biostimulants contain substance(s) and micro-organisms whose function, when applied to plants or the rhizosphere, is to stimulate natural processes to enhance/benefit nutrient uptake, nutrient efficiency, tolerance to abiotic stress, and crop quality.” This paper presents an overview of plant biostimulation, its contribution to sustainable agriculture. Benefits and challenges of biostimulation are outlined, including uses, application in agricultural systems, public perception, global and market analysis.

Assessment of Heavy Metals in the Arbutus Greenway, Vancouver

Bixin Lin, MLWS 2019

From 1902 to 2001, Vancouver’s Arbutus Greenway served as a railway for regional freight and interurban passenger transport service. In March 2016, the City of Vancouver purchased the Arbutus Corridor from the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) built this corridor into a greenway.

The overall aim of this study was to provide an evaluation of potential heavy metal contamination along a recently de-commissioned railroad track in Vancouver and a particular section that has a history of small scale raised bed community gardens. This study focuses on Vancouver transportation corridor, the Arbutus Greenway, as a case study. Five random sites were selected in Zone 1 of the Arbutus Greenway. The pH, ash content and heavy metal concentration of the soil were determined. The metals Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn were selected as important in relation to human exposure.

Groundwater Predictive Model on the Effect of Land Use Impacts on the Hopington Aquifer in Langley, BC

Juncheng Hu, MLWS 2019

The Hopington AB Aquifer is one of the most vulnerable unconfined aquifers in the lower mainland. It is reported that the Hopington AB aquifer water level is decreasing year by year. The predictive model indicates that these declines are due to excessive extraction, climate change and expected population growth will only accelerate the drop in water tables. In order to address the groundwater quantity issue, a groundwater management plan is needed to regulate and protect the unconfined aquifer.

The overall goal of the project is to determine the water balance of the Hopington Aquifer and its possible impact on streamflow in the Salmon River. The aim is to develop a predictive model to determine the effect of land use activities and water use on the Hopington Aquifer, to show if the aquifer is used in a sustainable manner and to evaluate if changes affect the stream water flow in the Salmon River.

GIS Assessment of Groundwater Recharge Potential in Whatcom County, Washington State: Implications for Land Use

Olatunbosun Ayetan, MLWS 2019

Ecosystem services such as groundwater recharge play an important role in sustainable management of groundwater resources. The present study was carried out to identify and map zones in the North Lynden Watershed Improvement District (NLWID) that have productive groundwater recharge potential using Geographical Information System (GIS). The NLWID is part of the Fishtrap Creek Watershed, which is faced with land use changes, loss of resource land and farmlands that have the potential to reduce natural recharge of the Sumas-Abbotsford Aquifer. A penetrometer field test was carried out to investigate soil compaction and the relationship between land cover and groundwater recharge potential. The penetrometer field test qualitatively revealed that land cover and the required management practices in addition to the soil types can affect groundwater recharge potential. The results of the study can be used to formulate an efficient groundwater recharge management plan for sustainable utilization of limited groundwater resources.

A Synthesis of Restoration Practices for Degraded Croplands in Dryland Regions

Asif Saleem, MLWS 2019

Restoration of degraded croplands are needed to ensure the sustainability of rain fed agriculture, and, thus food security, to meet the growing demands for food, fibre and shelter. Unsustainable agricultural techniques, land and water use, and climate change impacts are the main drivers for the degradation of drylands, which has resulted in the decline of ecosystem services, food insecurity, social and political instability. It has reduced ecosystem resilience to climate variability. The typical rehabilitation measures for restoration of degraded agricultural land are achieved through using agronomic and biological techniques, such as crop rotation, agroforestry, cover crops, vegetative filter strips, residue, and zero or reduced tillage.

This study evaluates and provides recommendations for significant gains and successes that have been made by governments, local communities, non-governmental organizations, the scientific and research community, as well as other stakeholders. This project identifies the challenges in the restoration of drylands and suggests recommendations for dryland restoration.

Vertical Farming Feasibility

The Opportunities and Challenges of Adapting Vertical Agriculture

Jie Sheng, MLWS 2018

As the human population continues to increase and land becomes more valuable, a day will come when people cannot completely rely on the produce from conventional farms. This study focuses on the technologies and challenges of adapting vertical farming as a new solution to feed the world’s population and potentially change our food system. The goal of this study is to analyze the theory and the potential of vertical farming in addressing the issues that exist in today’s food system. This study also conducts a comparison between the greenhouse system and vertical farming to determine the differences and the potential benefits behind vertical farming. Finally, to evaluate the feasibility of vertical farming, this study gives an opinion about the challenges to be overcome in this field and defines if vertical farming is a viable option to supply food to cities in an energy efficient and sustainable way.

Comparative Transboundary Nitrogen Budget of the Abbotsford-Sumas Aquifer

Kamal Kakish, MLWS 2018

Transboundary groundwater issues are of significant importance. The depletion of aquifers is adding pressure to growing water scarcity in many parts of the world; and groundwater quality is being reduced as a consequence of several sources of anthropogenic pollution, which eventually restricts its uses in certain applications.

Future sustainable management of shared resources requires a shift toward holistic cooperation, while strengthening the scientific knowledge available, to effectively inform policy actions. This is particularly important within the Abbotsford – Sumas Aquifer, a Transboundary Aquifer (TBA) system shared by British Columbia and Washington State, USA.

In this paper, a comparative nitrogen budget analysis is conducted on the Abbotsford-Sumas Aquifer and includes all major agricultural nitrogen flows. The study compares nitrogen surplus amounts on both sides of the border. This provides an indicator of excess nitrogen that could be leaked into the environment and eventually contribute to the contamination of the aquifer. Furthermore, conceptualizing nitrogen flows at the regional scale within the extent of the aquifer could promote a more effectual design of intervention measures and conjunctive policy creation for the sustainable management of the transboundary Abbotsford-Sumas Aquifer.

Phosphorus Dynamics for Efficient Nutrient Management in Organic Agriculture

Cagla Buzluk, MLWS 2018

There exists a wide range of observable inefficiencies in phosphorus (P) management in current organic agriculture. This paper’s objective is to increase the understanding of P dynamics in order to increase the P efficiency in organic agriculture. As a result of the nutrient imbalances in organically accepted nutrient sources and the high reactiveness of P, the management of P is challenging. One of the major contributors to the P inefficiencies in organic agriculture is the strong focus on meeting plant nitrogen (N) needs. Considering the growing global trend towards organic agriculture, decreasing P inefficiencies is important for both increasing the future sustainability of farms for the efficient use of P sources and decreasing the environmental impacts of organic farms on concerns such as eutrophication.

Food Security Concerns and Challenges of First Nations Communities in the Interior of BC

Brittany Myhal, MLWS 2018

The vulnerability of rural communities is a global issue that has been persisting for decades. As development pressures increase and climate change intensifies, these communities are forced to shift their reliance on local resources to imported goods. Due to the low population density of rural areas relative to urban centres, they hold less political power and their needs are often not prioritized by government. As a result, even communities in a resource abundant province such as British Columbia are experiencing food and water security issues. Rural First Nation communities have been particularly vulnerable as they have a history of being marginalized which has impacted their livelihood and decreased their ability to remain resilient to change.

This is a preliminary report intended to explore the main challenges and concerns regarding food security in rural communities in BC from a First Nations perspective. Two communities in BC’s interior were selected and visited. The first was Lytton First Nations and the second organization was Esh-Kn-Am Cultural Resources Management Services, which represents three different First Nations bands. There was greater focus placed on Esh-Kn-Am as they expressed more concern than the Lytton community in regard to their local food security.

Cooks Ferry Indian Band: Land Capability Assessment

Luc Anderson, MLWS 2017

Cooks Ferry Indian Band at Spences Bridge, like many rural communities, is experiencing major challenges in maintaining a viable socio-economic future due to urbanization and population dynamics. Dependence on a limited range of economic bases such as agriculture, mining, forestry, fishing, and recreation ties opportunities for employment to the success of these industries. The migration of skilled people, and notably younger generations, to urban centers has resulted in a decline of human resources. There has been little attention given to developing a community-based resources inventory to guide communities as they seek to incorporate emergent and innovative opportunities. The utilization of a computer based land capability classification framework is a first step in providing an ecological base for resources planning and development.

Integration of Agriculture and Wildlife Ecosystem Services

A Case Study of Westham Island, British Columbia, Canada

Yuan (Ellen) Zhang, MLWS 2016

There is concern regarding the loss of ecosystem goods and services as a result of land use changes, such as the expansion and intensification of agricultural activities. Assessments of these interactions require innovative analyses that combine qualitative and quantitative economic analyses. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment framework was applied to a peri-urban region in British Columbia to assess the effects of the integration of agricultural programs and the maintenance of waterfowl habitat located on the Pacific Flyway.

The Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust, a non-governmental organization, has implemented several activities to enhance eco-system goods and services by cooperative programs among the agricultural community and wildlife interests. The successful collaborative framework has resulted in enhanced soil quality, increased biodiversity, and the maintenance of valuable agriculture and waterfowl habitat.

View the article in Agricultural Sciences Journal

Assessment of the Opportunities and Challenges of Organic Cranberry Production in BC

Adarshana Thapa, MLWS 2016

Cranberries are known to have beneficial health effects but there is limited supply to meet local markets. As the demand for organic foods expands, interest in exploring organic cranberry production in British Columbia rises. Commercial cranberry production in British Columbia is well documented, but there is little information about the feasibility of growing organic cranberries.

This study focused on the economic feasibility and challenges of growing organic cranberries in the Lower Fraser Valley of British Columbia, the major producing region for cranberries in the province. The feasibility evaluation was based on three scenarios: a) growing cranberries on a field that has not been cultivated before; b) transitioning a field from conventional to organic cranberries; and c) transitioning from an organic crop to organic cranberries. This study integrated information from industry experts, local organic cranberry growers, researchers and academics. A financial analysis was conducted to provide an assessment of the economic feasibility of initiating organic cranberry production. A financial model, based on a 15-year time frame, was developed to be used by growers. The model projected that an economic break-even time of 7-14 years could be achieved.

Full report available upon request.

Analysis of Impervious Surface Area, and the Impacts on Soil-Based Agriculture and the Hydrological Cycle:

A Case Study in the Agricultural Land Reserve in Metro Vancouver, BC, Canada

Ashley Rose, MLWS 2016

The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) was originally established with the goal of protecting prime agricultural soils from being lost to urbanization and other development in the province of British Columbia. However, there are a wide array of activities that are permitted in the ALR such as the construction of greenhouses, crop and dairy barns, estate-sized homes, roads, and commercial facilities that permanently seal the soil with impervious surfaces and take the soil out of production.

The objective of this study was to estimate the extent of impervious surface area in the Metro Vancouver ALR in order to analyze the impacts on the hydrologic cycle and to quantify the amount of arable agricultural land that is taken out of production, based on the Soil Capability for Agriculture classification. The information in this report is useful in developing watershed protection strategies and assisting policy makers in making land use decisions to protect the long term integrity of the ALR and soil-based agriculture.

View the article in the Agricultural Sciences Journal

Rain Water Harvesting with the Homegrown Rainwater Model: Encouraging Alternative Water Resources for Small Scale and Urban Agriculture

Acadia Tucker, MLWS 2015

Alternative water resources, like rainwater harvesting, are under-utilized yet offer a decentralized approach that can increase the reliability and resiliency of urban water supplies, particularly for urban agricultural production. By exploring alternative approaches to water use and distribution, urban areas can decrease their dependency on large scale water systems and avoid the risks associated with centralized water supplies. Now is the time to start planning for a more unpredictable future in a way that mitigates the adversity linked with these events. The Homegrown Rainwater Model was designed and developed to help small scale growers determine the feasibility of installing a rainwater system at a site. The model design is based on three different steps to help users fully understand the potential system requirements that work best for each individual situation. The model predicts a specific location’s water supply and demand based on easily accessible information such as local precipitation, air temperature and irrigated area.

Full report available upon request.

Understanding Irrigation Demand in Metro Vancouver: An Application of the Agricultural Water Demand Model

Naomi Robert, MLWS 2015

Managing water quantity and quality in the Metro Vancouver region is an ongoing challenge under seasonal periods of water stress, particularly in the agricultural sector, a primary water consumer. Poor or absent regulation and monitoring of groundwater and surface water use in agriculture severely limits the capacity to assess water reserves and consumption and strategically manage water resources. This creates uncertainty regarding future water availability and risk within the agricultural sector. Improving our understanding of irrigation demand for agricultural production is a crucial step toward strategically managing the water resources upon which the agricultural industry depends.

This investigation aims to address this concern by using the Agricultural Water Demand Model, as developed by the BC Ministry of Agriculture, for Metro Vancouver (AWDM) as a comparative assessment tool. The AWDM is used to investigate irrigation demand within Metro Vancouver’s Agricultural Land Reserve in order to inform policy makers with regards to water management.

Connecting the Drops: An Agricultural Water Assessment and Strategy for Surrey, BC

Michelle Radley, MLWS 2015

Conflict over resources is particularly problematic in peri-urban areas where urban and rural development relies on the same land and water resource systems. Peri-urban agriculture is a valuable form of agriculture that provides environmental, recreational, and food security benefits to urban areas. However, urban competition for land and water and a lack of system-based planning has led to the fragmentation of arable land, stressed water systems, and a consequent decline in the potential for peri-urban agricultural production.

This project uses the city of Surrey, British Columbia, Canada as a case study for developing a regional, system-based strategy for increasing peri-urban agricultural productivity. The strategy focuses on integrating the management of geographically-fixed soil resources with water resources that flow through time and space. A water chain analysis and a water resource suitability assessment reveal that opportunities, vulnerabilities, and inefficiencies exist within Surrey’s water system. These results are applied using a holistic decision-making framework in order to demonstrate how alternative water harvesting and cropping opportunities may be developed and inform the directions for policy.

Agricultural Potential of the West Kootenay: A Regional Review of the Land, Soil and Climate for Crop Potential

Rachael Roussin, MLWS 2014

There is growing interest in the West Kootenay region to increase and support agricultural activity while recent changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) are reinvigorating the question of farmland protection. This study assesses the agricultural potential of the West Kootenay for fruit, vegetable and grain production with climate change using a land and climate based analysis. The approach includes: Quantifying the amount of agricultural land in the region and identifying its location using the Canada Land Inventory’s Soil Capability for Agriculture Classifications; Assessing the range of climate projections for 2050 and their significant for agricultural potential using Global Climate Model scenarios; Summarizing current agricultural activity in the region using the 2011 Canada Agricultural Census; Exploring the suitability of crops for specific areas. This study addresses issues of food security and resiliency from a land based perspective and the role of the ALR in protecting agricultural land.

Article published in Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development