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An assessment of land for commercial apple orchard potential on CLI class 4 and 5 soils in the Nanaimo B.C. area - a case study Williams, Heather Lorraine


It is generally accepted in British Columbia that Canada Land Inventory Class 1 to 4 lands are arable, yet in many instances commercial farms exist on lands of lower capability. A case study was done for an area (1.6 km * 2.9 km) southeast of Nanaimo, B.C. to determine if Canada Land Inventory Class 4 and 5 soils are biophysically suitable for Pyrus (pear) and Mai us (apple) orchards, and if such a development would be socioeconomically feasible. The critical biophysical conditions governing orchard development identified were climate (freeze free period, effective growing degree days, dormancy period and minimum winter temperature); soils (depth, drainage, texture/% coarse fragment content and topography); and groundwater availability for irrigation. The critical economic conditions were land tenure (Tree Farms and parcel size); current land use; and fruit yields and prices. While all biophysical conditions were favourable to apple orchards, the soils were found to be too coarse textured for pear orchards. Maps outlining the critical biophysical and socioeconomic conditions were prepared and overlayed. The composite map identified one area with realistic development potential for apple orchards. Although soils, land tenure, parcel size and current land use decreased the area available for orchards, the lack of groundwater for irrigation was found to be the most limiting factor to orchard development. Estimates of costs and returns for a 3.3 ha apple orchard over a 25 year period were done. Using these estimates, the net present value of the orchard was determined for three discount rates: 5%, 8% and 10%; and for five prices per kilogram: $0.15, $0.22, $0.33, $0.44 and $0.66. At prices of $0.15, $0.22, $0.33 and $0.44 (at discount rates of 10% and 8%), orchard establishment was not feasible. However, at prices of $0.44 (and discount rate of 5%) and $0.66, orchard establishment was feasible.

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