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Research Report  2.1

A Literature Review of On-Farm Research Design and
Data Evaluation Methods

Ms. Jane Sadler-Richards, Ecologistics Ltd, 490 Dutton Drive,
Suite 1A, Waterloo, ONT N2L 6H7
COESA Report No.:  RES/FARM-001/94

Objectives & Expected Outputs
Executive Summary
Table of Contents

View / Download Report   [125 KB pdf]

Extensive portions of the hard copy version of this report consisted of reproduced scientific papers and other non-published reports, NOT included in the digital copy.


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Objectives and Expected Outputs
  1. To identify relevant sources of information with emphasis on work in North America since 1975;
  2. To categorize and describe on-farm study designs and data evaluation methods;
  3. To comment where possible on the potential impact of the studied designs as options in future studies.
Expected Outputs: The identification and discussion of the merits of study designs and data evaluations most useful to on-farm research projects and large plot situations in which farmers may be involved.
Type: Open Bid, Industry
Spending Profile: 92-93: $22 K,    93-94: $2 K,    Total: $24 K
Status: Available January, 1995


Executive Summary

An Introduction to On-Farm Research

On-farm field scale agronomic research is not a new phenomenon. For example in the 1940's and 1950's, most open pollinated corn varieties were replaced by high-yielding hybrids across North America. During this time, obvious yield differences among the hybrids became less and less apparent, requiring more precise comparisons. The field strip test was institutionalized to fill this on-farm research need. However, debate then increased among scientists as to the relative merits of conducting such research, compared with highly controlled small plot research replicated and randomized over relatively few locations with field variability tightly controlled (Duvick, 1991).

Over the past 15 years, on-farm research has received new prominence in agricultural systems research which attempts to reduce environmental damage and to increasingly sense the needs of society, including the farmer (Anderson and Lockeretz, 1991). Collaboration between university researchers, farmers and producer organizations has increased through program such as the United States Department of Agriculture's Low-input/Sustainable Agriculture Program where such collaboration is requisite to funding approval. This agency has channelled unprecedented federal funds to groups doing on-farm research (Anderson and Lockeretz, 1992).

In Ontario, research has been carried out on farm fields for some years by agribusiness, focusing on crop variety and pesticide trials. In the mid to late 1980's, research and long term demonstration programs such as Tillage 2000, Partners in Nitrogen and the Technology Evaluation and Development Program (SWEEP) were initiated in Ontario.

Many would agree that research at a systems level (whether cropping system or ecosystem) involves a wide number of variables with dynamic relationships. Many would also agree, along with the majority of farmers, that research receives an added and a needed degree of relevance when seen to be applicable at a field and a farm scale. However, the connection between where research takes place and what it can achieve is not always clear. To ensure an effective use of research resources, it is important that the most appropriate study design be used to achieve stated objectives. Similarly, the options for statistical analyses may not be well understood or accommodated in the study design.

This review of the on-farm research methodology literature allows researchers to gain a collective insight to the approaches tried by others, and should help to streamline on-farm research techniques and efforts into more standardized protocols.


Table of Contents

  1. An Introduction to On-Farm Research
    1.1 Study Objectives
    1.2 Methodolgy
    1.2.1 Identifying Relevant Researchers and their Research

  2. Overview of Supporting On-Farm Research Literature
    2.1 What is On-Farm Research and Who is Doing It?
    2.2 Why and When is On-Farm Research Most Appropriate?
  3. Design and Data Evaluation Methods
  4. Sampling Strategies
  5. In Summary
Appendix A: List of Contacts

Appendix B: Examples of Design and Data Evaluation Methods

Appendix C: References


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Last Updated: May 16, 2011 08:39:24 PM