Thiessen Martens, J. R., Entz, M. H. and Wonneck, M. D. 2015. Review: Redesigning Canadian prairie cropping systems for profitability, sustainability, and resilience. Can. J. Plant Sci. 95: 1049-1072. Redesign of agricultural systems according to ecological principles has been proposed for the development of sustainable systems. We review a wide variety of ecologically based crop production practices, including crop varieties and genetic diversity, crop selection and rotation, cover crops, annual polyculture, perennial forages, perennial grains, agroforestry systems, reducing tillage, use of animal manures and green manures, soil biological fertility, organic production systems, integrated crop-livestock systems, and purposeful design of farm landscapes (farmscaping), and discuss their potential role in enhancing the profitability, environmental sustainability, and resilience of Canadian prairie cropping systems. Farming systems that most closely mimic natural systems through appropriate integration of diverse components, within a context of supportive social and economic structures, appear to offer the greatest potential benefits, while creating a framework in which to place all other farming practices. Our understanding of ecological relationships within agricultural systems is currently lacking, and a major shift in research, education, and policy will be required to purposefully and proactively redesign Canadian prairie agricultural systems for long-term sustainability.
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