The Prairie region is one of the most intensively farmed landscapes in Canada containing over 80% of the nation’s cropland, much of which is devoted to major export crops. The region is also one of the most ecologically important landscapes, with wetlands and grasslands providing essential habitat for a diversity of organisms including many species at risk. Unintended negative consequences still are affecting environmental quality, resulting in declines in water quality, wildlife habitat, and soil degradation. In addition, weather extremes, disease, pest and weed resistance increasingly challenge the long-term viability of the agriculture sector. These vulnerabilities have prompted calls to redesign farming systems to enhance profitability and environmental sustainability
Emerging research and theories suggest that the solution may lie in enhancing agroecosystem resilience through ecological intensification and diversification. Our research aims to assess how regenerative farming practices such as intercropping, cover cropping, crop-livestock integration and the strategic placement of non-crop areas within agricultural landscapes can provide opportunities to balance productivity and farm profitability with environmental benefits to soil health, water quality and biodiversity.
The Canadian Prairie Agroecosystem Resilience Network (CPARNet) was conceived and designed to systematically study and experimentally intensify on-farm diversity to assess interactions among multiple indicators of resilience across the Prairies using a participatory, systems-based approach that integrates diverse metrics and engages producers in all aspects of the research design, implementation and interpretation.
CPARNet researchers have expertise in crop and livestock production, soil health, wetland function, biodiversity and socio-economics. Members of the network consist of over 40 academics and 20 non-academic researchers from 7 universities, along with 30+ supporting organizations – representing a diverse research community, provincial and federal governments, individual producers and producer groups, agricultural industry representatives, crop insurance agencies, non-governmental organizations and a First Nations community.
CPARNet’s vision is to evaluate innovative and adaptive solutions that enhance Canada’s agricultural landscapes using a coordinated interdisciplinary scientific and participatory research approach.