Abstract

Potato production is now the central agricultural enterprise on Prince Edward Island, but live cattle were the main agricultural export in the first decades after the island became part of the British Empire. Cattle production relied on effective use of marsh hay, pre-existent human alterations to the landscape, and forest grazing, with the Newfoundland fishery providing the main market. After the end of the Napoleonic Wars, as the island attracted more immigrants, the cattle industry declined in relative importance, and potato and grain production grew. This shift was driven in part by curtailed access to wild forage as more land was settled and by changing markets, but it represented, too, a shift in the ecosystems that sustained agriculture. Where the early cattle industry depended largely on the nutrient cycles of coastal lands, the grain and potato industries increasingly focused on those of the island interior.

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