Long Term Cost-Benefit Analysis of Including Forages in Cropping Rotation

Project Title

Quantifying the Economic Benefits and Carbon Capture Efficiency of Including Forages in Cropping Systems: A Test Using Long-Term Data from the Breton Plots


Dr. Edward Bork edward.bork@ualberta.ca

Miles Dyck (University of Alberta) Sylvie Quideau, (University of Alberta) Scott Jeffrey, (University of Alberta) Dick Puurveen, (University of Alberta)

Status Project Code
In progress. Results expected in March, 2024 FRG.12.20


Integrating forages into crop rotations is known to have many benefits including weed suppression, increasing productivity, and various soil quality impacts, but the short-term loss of crop land often makes this seem cost inhibitive. There has been little research that looks at the long term agricultural and economic benefits of these practices.    

The Breton Research Plots in west-central Alberta support and compare at least 5 different long-term (40 yr) crop rotations that differ from 1 to 8 years in duration. These plots date back to 1929 and were established on Gray Luvisol (low organic matter) soils to address issues of chronic low fertility and productivity. Unlike other long-term rotational studies where forages are examined in a single treatment, forages are a significant part of 3 of the long-term rotations at Breton. These rotations have 40 years’ worth of data available for this research group to evaluate the effects of forage inclusion.


  • to use multiple datasets from locations across western Canada to conduct a comprehensive cost:benefit analysis of different rotational systems, and  conduct a ‘systems’ level analysis of the carbon fixation efficiency within these rotations.

What they will do

This research team will use the long-term data available from the Bretton plots to conduct a cost benefit analysis of different rotational systems. Having 40 years’ worth of data to analyze will also allow them to look at nitrogen and carbon sequestration over that time period, they will take new soil core samples and compare them to ones from the past to evaluate changes in soil composition.


This project will help provide data on the value of maintaining and including forages in rotation, not only on the value they have to capture carbon but also on the long-term economics for producers.