OSC Activity E.2

Modeling Global Warming Potential (GWP) reductions associated with sub-watershed wide transition to organic farming

Activity Researchers

Name Affiliation
Rod MacRae, Lead Researcher

Assistant Professor
Faculty of Environmental Studies
York University
4700 Keele St
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3

Martin Bunch, Co-applicant

Associate Professor
Faculty of Environmental Studies
York University
4700 Keele St
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3

Derek Lynch, Collaborator
Canada Research Chair in Organic Agriculture
Dalhousie University
Faculty of Agriculture
PO Box 550
Truro, NS B2N 5E3


  1. To model land use changes in a sub-watershed associated with full transition of all farms to organic farming
  2. To understand the E and GWG emissions associated with such a scenario
  3. To advance understanding of the impacts of widespread adoption of organic farming in Canada
  4. To determine the environmental value added associated with the transition process which will help with branding Canadian food products as environmentally sustainable.

Activity Summary

Three selected sub-watersheds from across Canada will be modeled for global warming potential (GWP) reductions associated with full transition to organic agriculture, using field-generated data from cluster partners, existing geospatial data, and existing knowledge of the transition from conventional to organic land use.

This work furthers our understanding of the potential environmental benefits associated with widespread adoption of organic farming, a topic for which little research has been carried out in Canada. The sub-watersheds will be selected based on:

  1. The need for a diversity of sub-watershed characteristics
  2. The state of knowledge of baseline land use and production activities
  3. The “typicality” of the sub-watershed as it relates to organic transition opportunities
  4. The likelihood of significant uptake of organic production over the next 10 years.

The method will be modeled on Coiner et al. (1998) and related reports who studied future scenarios in several Ohio sub-watersheds. A baseline land use scenario will be constructed, from which will be created typical organic transition changes for each dominant farming type in the sub-watershed. The organic transition scenarios will be constructed from the existing literature and expert opinion in the region of each study area. The land use and production changes will be modeled using GIS methodologies, and the changes linked, via existing data sets, to changes in greenhouse gas emissions.  Agent-based modeling approaches and software should permit dynamic modeling of the interactions between these variables and outcomes.  Given results, implications for product branding will be reviewed, based on existing literature on eco-labeling and branding.

Background and Supporting Documents

Partners and Sponsors