, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 73-79

Land tenure and agricultural management: Soil conservation on rented and owned fields in southwest British Columbia

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Abstract

According to literature,insecure land tenure biases against soilconservation on farmland. However, there islittle evidence to test whether farmers need toown their land to conserve it, or if long-termleases are adequate. One way to infer whetheror not different land tenure arrangementspromote long-term management is throughanalyzing the types of crops planted on fieldswith different land tenure arrangements.Perennials, forage legumes, grasslands, andgrain are all important parts of sustainablecrop rotation in southwest British Columbia butprovide little cash return in the year they areplanted. Annual crops provide a high cashreturn but create soil conservation problems ifthey are planted too often. A comparison offields with different land tenures showed thatfarmers who own their land plant moreperennials, grain, and forage legumes thanfarmers who rent fields. Few differences wereobserved on fields with different leaselengths. This study leads to three overallconclusions. First, although results confirmthe literature, and insecure land tenure is areal obstacle to long-term soil conservation,it is not possible to assume that long-termleases will substitute for land ownership.Second, it is possible to use relativelyeasy-to-gather data on crop history to assessthe impact of tenure on farming. Third,intervening variables, in this case a programthat pays farmers to plant grasslands,over-rides the effect of insecure land tenureand creates incentives for owner-operators andtenant farmers alike to use crop managementthat protects soil fertility in the longterm.