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Captcha
11-26-2011, 05:09 PM
I'm trying to adapt a political situation near my home into something that I can use for a story, but I want to change enough of the details so that my neighbours don't burn my house down.

Basically, near my home, a company wants to dig a gravel quarry on farmland that apparently has soil specially suited for growing potatoes. (http://www.thestar.com/news/article/979570--potato-farmer-proposes-mega-quarry) There's a lot of public outcry about it, and there are, possibly, environmental issues that go beyond the crop aspect.

What I'd like to do is change the specialty crop, just to make this a little less "in my backyard". So I'm looking for a type of crop that only grows well in certain soil, (it'd be good if the soil was fairly rare), and that, according to geological principles that I only partly understand, would be likely to be settled on top of a huge expanse of easily-quarried aggregate.

ie. I want to be able to realistically say, "We need that soil for farmland! It's the best place to grow rutabagas!" But I'd like it to not be rutabagas, if possible. Something that people actually WANT grown, would be great.

If possible, I'd like to keep this in Ontario, (Canada) because I've read enough here to see how the gov't would react, but if someone's aware of a similar development that has been proposed elsewhere, I'd love to hear about it, and maybe I could steal that setting!

Thanks for any help.

Snick
11-26-2011, 05:26 PM
You can wing it. I don't know anything about specialty soils in Ontario, but I know of fields that get several times the normal rental rate because of special soils. Just select any crop that grows in Ontario and use that. Set it Minnesota to fool the neighbors.

Kenn
11-26-2011, 05:45 PM
Gravel workings tend to be associated with alluvial deposits, so the top soil is usually of good quality and useful for growing most things. The over-riding factor in these cases will be climate rather than crop type.

There are lots of gravel workings in the UK and lots of people objecting to them, but the objections are usually for reasons of nuisance or dust.

One possibility is to select a speciality crop. Ginseng would be a good option, as it is slow growing and it takes several years to establish itself (at least I think it does). I'm sure they grow it in Ontario as well.

LJD
11-26-2011, 09:05 PM
hmmmm...according to that particular article, there is apparently a large potato farm on the site, but I don't see any mention of why the area is particularly suited to potatoes?

Sorry, I haven't any ideas for you. I have a geology background, but no knowledge of farming.

Captcha
11-26-2011, 09:51 PM
hmmmm...according to that particular article, there is apparently a large potato farm on the site, but I don't see any mention of why the area is particularly suited to potatoes?

Sorry, I haven't any ideas for you. I have a geology background, but no knowledge of farming.

Apparently the soil is a special loam that is excellent for growing potatoes? There certainly are a lot of potato farms in the area. But I never heard a peep about unique soils before the quarry was proposed - I honestly don't know whether that's because I just wasn't part of the potato farming community, or whether its value is being somewhat exaggerated as part of the effort to battle the quarry.

shaldna
11-26-2011, 09:54 PM
You can wing it. I don't know anything about specialty soils in Ontario, but I know of fields that get several times the normal rental rate because of special soils. Just select any crop that grows in Ontario and use that. Set it Minnesota to fool the neighbors.

Don't do this.

Seriously, don't. If you are going to base a major plot point on easily obtainable real life information, don't try to bullshit your readers by making it up. They will be annoyed.


Now, potatoes will grow pretty much anywhere, although they prefer an almost neutral / slightly acidic PH of between 6 and 7. They don't really like lime (alkaline) soil, but will still grow there.

Most common crops are fairly easy to grow, corn is similar to potatoes in requirements, as is sunflower, although sunflower like slightly heavier soil, but nothing to clay based or silty

Celery likes very very moist soil, and can't tolerate being dry at all.

Aubergines need really fertile soil, but need a long, warm growing seasons, so not really practical for Canada.

Carrots can be quite hard to grow, they don't like it dry and loose, and they can't grow in heavy clay soil. Something very muchy and humus is best for them with decent drainage.

On top of that you are going to have a lot of crops that are very hard to grow in Canada simply due to the climate - onions, sweet potatoes and melons for instance, which need warmth and 14-16 hours of good sunlight daily.

Captcha
11-26-2011, 10:04 PM
Ginseng might just work. It looks like it's only grown in one chunk of Ontario, where they used to grow a lot of tobacco.

But apparently the soil there is sandy and light - is that the sort of soil that might have gravel underneath it?

Kenn
11-26-2011, 11:03 PM
I must admit that I didn't check the link when I posted earlier.

The quarry in question is not for sand or gravel, but for limestone (which is buried much deeper): it's not so much a quarry, as an open-cast mine - a gigantic hole in the ground - and it's no wonder the locals are upset. How the topsoil relates to the underlying rock depends on where it came from and how deeply the rock is buried. In this case, the rock is buried very deep.

The soil in question is a silty loam and the Honeywood bit only comes from the fact it is found (or was first found) near Honeywood. Not surprisng, therefore, that it is rare. It makes good reading when it's presented like that, but the important thing is that it is good for growing potatoes (go down the road and you'll probably find another loam that is just as rare and just as good).

I was possibly wrong about the the alluvial gravel and sand deposits earlier, and there will be plenty of glacial deposits in Canada that can be quarried too. Given the enormous variety of soil types (they can vary over distances of yards), it is credible to decide on your own topsoil (when writing fiction, at least). A light sandy soil is consistent with gravel/sand deposits in a river valley.

Captcha
11-27-2011, 12:30 AM
They're saying that the stone is for aggregates - I thought that meant gravel, but maybe not?

They say they need it for building roads, and condos, and whatnot - again, I thought that meant gravel...

Is it possibly limestone aggregate? The company's propaganda/truth site is http://melancthonquarry.ca/ , and they're talking about aggregate as well...

LJD
11-27-2011, 12:40 AM
only thing about something like ginseng is that I don't think many people would care about it...

I've heard that farmers in the Tobacco Belt (this is actually where my dad's family is from...) have been switching to sweet potatoes. Sounds like the sandy soil is good for it.
http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/hort/news/vegnews/2010/vg0210a3.htm

Or: maybe something like the Holland Marsh (near Toronto), which is particularly good for vegetables? You can make up a similar area somewhere else. I know that there is a similar, smaller area near my bf's hometown, for example. They grown lots of carrots and onions there and lots of specialty vegetables too in the Holland Marsh. I think this area actually is protected against development for this reason (designated as a specialty crop area). Don't know what is underneath it though.

Limestone is not hard to find in southern Ontario. I am not sure if what is special about the limestone in that planned "mega quarry". I mean, it seems to me it would make more sense to quarry limestone near Kingston, where there is little topsoil...and it's not all that far away from major population centers either....

Captcha
11-27-2011, 01:22 AM
I thought about something like the Holland Marsh, but it seems like vegetables are such a valuable crop (per acre) that it probably wouldn't make economic sense to destroy land that's good for them? I like the potato, in the real world story, because it's so prosaic - kinda the gravel of the vegetable world.

Maybe sweet potatoes would work... hmmm...

Kenn
11-27-2011, 01:59 AM
They're saying that the stone is for aggregates - I thought that meant gravel, but maybe not?

They say they need it for building roads, and condos, and whatnot - again, I thought that meant gravel...

Is it possibly limestone aggregate? The company's propaganda/truth site is http://melancthonquarry.ca/ , and they're talking about aggregate as well...
I think you crush the limestone to form the aggregate, which can either be used as base material (in roads) or in cement.

I have to say this seems to be a very big hole they're planning to dig and I can't blame the locals for feeling upset about it.

Captcha
11-27-2011, 02:31 AM
As a local, I agree... but most of the information I'm getting is coming from the opponents of the quarry, and I don't have enough background to judge whether they're representing things accurately. It's actually pretty interesting, from a socio-political perspective...

Miguelito
11-28-2011, 05:09 AM
Here you go:

Orchards (apples, peaches, pears, etc) and grape vines grow very well on very sandy soils because the trees and vines like soils where the water drains out of them very easily.

There are already many, many orchards and grape-farming operations in southern Ontario and some near Belleville.

Further, where the sand deposits are rich enough, they could also be used as sand pits. There are many sand pits, orchards, and grape-farming operations in the St. Davids area just on the north side of Niagara Falls.

ETA: there's already a significant loss of good agricultural land to the spread of subdivisions as well.

This help?

hammerklavier
11-30-2011, 10:49 PM
I grew up on a farm in what we called "The River Bottoms" -- an area where the Mississippi once roamed freely (before being tamed by the lock and dam system) and still does, every ten years or so. It was a very dark, rich soil. You could easily grow corn, soybeans, wheat and other crops. Ours was the last bit of river bottom and we owned some hill land also. The hills had a soil with higher clay content that was much lighter in color. Some farmers did work the hills but had to use more fertilizer and they generally didn't get as high yields due to poorer water distribution and other issues. We only used our hills to grow hay (grass and clover).

In the Chicago area, there are recent laws that you can't develop on top of top soil -- that rich layer of soil in the good farms. So you'll see all these new subdivisions with the occasional hill in the otherwise flat landscape. That hill is a big mound of topsoil that they bulldozed to make room for the houses.