Sherri L. DeFauw, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, Robert P. Larkin, USDA-ARS New England Plant, Soil and Water Laboratory, Orono, ME, Patrick J. English, Mississippi State University, Delta Research and Extension Center, Stoneville, MS, Aaron K. Hoshide, School of Economics, University of Maine, Orono, ME, Andrew Plant, Agriculture Education, UMaine Cooperative Extension, Houlton, ME and John M. Halloran, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Orono, ME
Tracking the spatial interdependencies of cropping systems is an often overlooked component of agricultural sustainability. Agronomists and farmers are tasked with attempting to double food production over the next 30 years which may entail spatial reallocation and optimization of crop water and energy footprints to better comply with ‘localized’ soil and water resource constraints. Geospatial frameworks help resolve patterns and trends in production environments at multiple scales. The objectives of this investigation were to: (1) assess production footprints for Maine cropping systems using 2008-2011 Cropland Data Layer (CDL), Common Land Unit (CLU), DEM and NAIP datasets; (2) examine geospatial relationships of potato, small grains, corn, and broccoli; (3) interrelate production areas with agri-environmental indicators (56 m resolution); and (4) evaluate dominant crop sequences and potential economic impacts of select alternate crops across 3 yrs (2008-2010) using a 324-ha potato farm model. Geospatial integration of CDL and CLU layers with soils revealed a 4-yr potato footprint estimated at 56,000 ha with 67% and 27% residing on ‘prime farmland’ (PF) and ‘farmland of statewide importance’ (FSI), respectively. Over 85% of potato production soils require the highest standards in conservation practices as they are classified ‘potentially highly erodible land’ (PHEL) or ‘highly erodible land’ (HEL). Geospatial interdependency of potato-small grains (barley, rye, oat, spring and winter wheat) had an estimated 4-yr cropland overlap of 77%. Broccoli was grown on 13% of the 4-yr potato cropping system land base, whereas 6% was shared with corn. Forecast models were developed to account for rotational complexity; the 6-yr land base estimate for sustaining Maine’s potato systems is approx. 67,000 ha, small grains may occupy 65,000 ha, corn approx. 22,000 ha, and 10,000 ha for broccoli. Gauging these relationships helps food system researchers assess economies of scale linked to agro-ecoregions, productive capacity pools, and land quality.