The Soil Conservation Act and associated regulation encourages sound soil conservation practices to preserve Alberta’s agricultural land base and ensure the long-term productivity of the farming sector. The Act describes the requirement for landholders to prevent soil loss or deterioration from taking place, or to stop loss or deterioration from continuing. To address the problems and costs associated with soil degradation at a municipal level, the Act provides municipalities with the authority to take action or impose penalties if soil is deteriorating through wind and water erosion or other means.
On this page, find resources for implementing sound soil conservation practices in Alberta.
Soil quality and health
- Salt Woes (YouTube)
- Soil Fertility and Soil Heath (YouTube)
- Soil Health Benchmarking in Alberta (YouTube)
- Agricultural Soil Compaction: Causes and Management
- Management of Solonetzic Soils
- Soil moisture and temperature consideration
- Liming Acid Soils
- Soil pH and Plant Nutrients
- Wood Ash: An Alternative Liming Material for Agricultural Soils
AESA soil quality benchmark sites
The development of a province-wide network of benchmark sampling was initiated in the spring and summer of 1998 by the Conservation and Development Branch of Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (AAFRD). Monitoring of these benchmark sites is part of the AESA (Alberta Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture) Soil Quality Monitoring Initiative.
Initially, 2 goals were identified for this program. The first to determine the state of soil quality across Alberta and the second to determine the risk of change in soil quality with various management practices. A third goal to determine how soil quality integrates into environmental sustainability was added to the soil quality program strategy in 2001.
The main objectives of the fall benchmark sampling across Alberta are to:
- provide baseline soil information
- evaluate landscape effects on soil quality and soil quality risk assessment
- provide a data set to test and validate simulation models (crop growth, wind and water erosion)
- monitor changes in soil quality over time on a field landscape basis
- A Preliminary Assessment of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Agricultural Soils
- A Single Measurement to Predict Potential Mineralizable N
- Determination of Historical Changes in Salinity
- Evaluation of a Soil Quality Test Kit for Alberta (final project report)
- Evaluation of a Soil Quality Test Kit in Alberta (preliminary report)
- Evaluation of Two Field Methods to Estimate Soil Organic Matter in Alberta Soils
- Historical Trends in Soil Available Phosphorus Across Alberta
- Preliminary Analysis of Five Years of Soil Data from the AESA Soil Quality Benchmark Sites
- Soil classification of two soil quality benchmark sites (2-615, 802)
- Soil Quality Benchmarks in Alberta
- Soil Quality Indicators: A Review With Implications For Agricultural Ecosystems In Alberta
- Soil Quality Monitoring Programs: A Literature Review
- Spatial Relationships between Soil Fertility Parameters and Ecological Landforms
- The Soil Quality Indices Literature: Compiler's Report – SQI Literature Project 2003
1992-2002 Soil quality study
In the late 1980s, questions concerning trends in soil quality and means of measuring those trends, if detectable, arose in response to the issue of sustainable agriculture. To address this, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada established the Soil Quality Benchmark Site Study as part of the 1990 Soil Quality Evaluation Program.
By 1992, a network of 23 benchmark-monitoring sites across Canada were established, including 4 in Alberta, and various land, soil and air characteristics were monitored in Alberta for at least 10 years. Funding for the study ended following the 10-year resampling of the sites in 2002-2003.
Current Status of Soil Quality Study
Upon completion of data transfer agreements authorized in 2022 custodianship of the samples and soil property data was moved to the University of Alberta, Department of Renewable Resources, Environmental Soil Science.
View benchmark documentation for Alberta sites:
- BM03 west of Falher
- BM04 east of Mundare at the Parkland Conservation Demonstration Farm
- BM05 northeast of Provost
- BM06 south of Bow Island
The following comparative reports include the results of re-sampling 5 and 10 years following site establishment:
- Benchmark Sites for Monitoring Agricultural Soil Quality
- Comparison Report of Cultivated and Native Soils in a Morainal Landscape in East Central Alberta at BM05 (Provost)
A 5-year comparison – Poster presentation to Canadian Soil Science Society Annual Meeting (2002), Banff, Alberta:
- Soil Quality Attributes Five Years after the Establishment Of Alberta Soil Quality Benchmark Sites (PDF, 226 KB)
A 10-year comparison – Oral presentation to Canadian Soil Science Society Annual Meeting (2005), Halifax, Nova Scotia:
- Alberta Farm Fertilizer Information and Recommendation Manager (AFFIRM)
- Manure Management Planner
- Nutrient Loading Calculator
- Phosphorus Management Tool
The Alberta Fertilizer Guide provides information on the use of fertilizers under the various cropping and soil-climate conditions throughout the province. Farmers are encouraged to use it in conjunction with soil tests and their own experience to develop an effective and economic fertilizer program. The guide covers cropping practices, soil types and map, problem soils, fertilizers types, rates and timing and application methods by crop type.
The Nutrient Management Planning Guide for Alberta is a resource for developing field-scale nutrient management plans. The primary objective of this guide is to facilitate nutrient management planning in Alberta. Information within the guide draws from theory, critical procedures and Alberta-specific considerations. The guide is laid out in 8 modules that address specific topics.
- Ammonia Volatilization from Manure Application
- Anhydrous Ammonia Use at Seeding
- Crop Nutrition and Fertilizer Requirements
- Fall-applied Nitrogen: Risks and Benefits
- Micronutrient Requirements of Crops
- Micronutrients Factsheet (PDF, 537 KB)
- Phosphorus Fertilizer Application in Crop Production
- Potassium Fertilizer Application In Crop Production
- Sulphur Fertilizer Application in Crop Production
- A Preliminary Assessment of Carbon Dioxide and Nitrous Oxide Emissions from Agricultural Soils in Alberta
- Assessing the Carbon Content of the AESA Benchmark Sites from 1998-2004
- Preliminary Assessment of Available Soil P in Alberta: Status and Trends
- Spatial Variability of Soil Nutrients at Selected AESA Soil Quality Benchmark Sites
- The Micronutrient and Trace Element Status of Crops Grown on the Alberta Soil Quality Benchmark Sites
- The Micronutrient and Trace Element Status of Forty-Three Soil Quality Benchmark Sites in Alberta
Land and soil data
Characterization of soil types and the establishment of limits to the geographical distribution of each soil type name (soil name) within Alberta. Updates to this version include incorporating new soil names created since the release of the 2006 edition, and modifications to some soil correlation areas boundaries.
Soil Correlation Area map
The Soil Correlation Area (SCA) Map of Alberta (PDF, 1.5 MB) illustrates the boundaries that define the geographic distribution of the soil names associated with each SCA.
Other SCA resources
- Individual SCA Areas in individual Compressed Keyhole Markup Language formatted files (Generation 4) (ZIP, 455 KB)
- All SCA Areas in one ESRI shape layer completed with metadata xml file (Generation 4) (ZIP, 158 KB)
The Land Suitability Rating System (LSRS) reference tool offers guidance for using the LSRS computer program. It describes the processes followed for developing the system and offers guidance for interpreting an LSRS rating.
The Alberta Landforms report presents background information on the landform classification system used within the Agricultural Regions of Alberta Soil Inventory Database (AGRASID). The report highlights quantitative morphological descriptions and landform classifications for typical glaciated landforms in western Canada. It also documents the methods used to produce the descriptions.
Land resource atlas
The Agricultural Land Resource Atlas of Alberta is a collection of agricultural resource maps developed as part of the Environmental Scan for Agriculture in Alberta by the Alberta Environmental Scan Technical Team in 2003. The maps in the atlas were prepared for the environmental scan process (PDF, 39 MB). They are a valuable resource of environmental information, in particular for Alberta’s agricultural community for the development of environmental farm plans.
Organizations and communities of practice
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