In a paper entitled "Past, present and future BNF credits from legumes to western Canadian agriculture", Biederbeck et al. (1996) predicted that by 2005, BNF from legumes would amount to 550 million kg of N annually. This amount of N represents almost one-third of the total inorganic N fertilizer used in Canada in 1996. Biederbeck's prediction was based on a scenario of increased use of green fallow, expansion of grain legume production, and a modest increase in the land area dedicated to perennial forage legumes. All of these predictions are being realized. In fact, present expansion of grain legume production is greater than predicted. Biederbeck et al. concluded that, in the "2005 scenario", forage legumes, grain legumes, green fallow would account for 45%, 34% and 15% of the BFN, respectively.
Ecological and organic agriculture is growing rapidly in industrialized countries. This shift to a more holistic food production system, where external synthetic crop production inputs are reduced, presents an important opportunity to expand the role of BNF in modern agriculture. Evidence of the importance of legumes in organic farming systems was provided in a recent organic farm survey (Entz et al. 2001b). Forty-two percent of the landbase on survey farms in western Canada were found to be dedicated to legume production.
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