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Research Report  3.13

An Assessment of the Approaches and Data Concerning
Five Green Plan Project Technical Reports on the State
of Agricultural Resources

Mr. Michael Hoffman, AgPlan,
Guelph, ONT N1H 4E9
COESA Report No.:  RES/MON-013/97

Objectives & Expected Outputs
Executive Summary

View / Download Report  [234 KB pdf]


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This report assesses various aspects of the following five Green Plan Research Reports:

Project Title Geographic Location
3.4 Assess the State of Agricultural Resources: Improving the Land Resource Data Base Whitchurch-Stouffville; Wilmot, Waterloo Region
3.5 Upgrade of Soil Survey Information for Oxford County Oxford County
3.6 Development and Application of Standardized Methodology for Sampling Soil Landscape Polygons Haldimand-Norfolk, Brant, Middlesex, Essex Counties
3.7 Development and Testing of a "State of Agricultural Resources" Reporting and Monitoring Methodology for Ontario Ramsay Township in Lanark County, Kent County, Southern Ontario
3.8 Monitoring Soil and Redistribution using 137Cs Southern Ontario, Kintore (Pilot) Watershed


Objectives and Expected Outputs
  1. To review Research Reports #3.4, #3.5, #3.6, #3.7, #3.8, and evaluate those proposals in the context of and evolving research directions in the Green Plan and the Canada-Ontario Agreement (COA) respecting the Great Lakes Basin;
  2. To review literature to assist in the evaluation and the provision of context;
  3. To establish a recommended approach based on the review, evaluation and literature.
Expected Outputs: The completed work would include the context as set out by the objectives of the COA as follows: i) To restore degraded ecosystems (RAPs); ii) To prevent and control pollutant impacts; iii) To conserve human/ecosystem health, and integrate ecosystem management. The report summarizing the findings will include reference to the literature and/or to past/present practices in agrology in support of the information, providing context, and in support of the recommendations. This report will be useful as a planning tool.
Type: Open Bid, Industry
Spending Profile: 93-94: $67.4 K, 94-95: $145.2 K,  95-96: $176.2 K, 96-97: $155.7 K,  Total: $544.6 K
Status: Available Fall 1997


Executive Summary

AgPlan Limited produced an unsolicited proposal and was subsequently given a contract to compare and contrast five different Green Plan Reports. The five contractors producing these reports were all responding to the same terms of reference provided by a single Request For Proposal. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to compare the five reports by:

  • Identifying their common elements,

  • Highlighting their unique characteristics and

  • Suggesting how the collective information could be used to provide benefit and guidance for future work in the subject areas addressed by the five reports.

Given that the different Reports had a cross section of components, levels of detail (complexity) and area of focus, a framework of questions was derived and used to synthesize information. The questions in the framework were as follows:

  • What variables or factors were used in the different projects?

  • What similarities/dissimilarities arise in the physical resource data when the projects are compared?

  • Are there reasons for these differences (if any) other than contractual arrangements, i.e., the terms of reference and proposals prepared for the work?

  • What are the characteristics of the variables/factors used in the resource base? For example:

    • Are they single component or multiple component?

    • Are they calculations?

    • How feasible are the variables from the perspective of "cost" of collection, i.e., public understanding, practicality as measurements or indicators, current availability (temporal and geographic), scale of measurement and/or application (field, farm, ecosystem)?

    • Are these factors direct or indirect (surrogates) - Do they seem appropriate?

    • What limitations, qualifiers are suggested for the variables/factors?
    • What kinds and degree of risk do these variables/factors distinguish?

The results of the review and evaluation have been summarized in matrices and answer two questions:

  • What are essential data, variables or factors?

  • What are desirable data, variables or factors?

The evaluation also considers scale (appropriate levels), availability and adequacy of data as well as limitations to application. Reference to the literature and/or practice (past and present) in agrology was made in support of the evaluation.

All of the consultant reports provide the information that their original proposals state. However, taken singly, the reports do not meet all of the objectives of the COA. Even as a group, the reports provide fragmented views of the system of agriculture and are not related to an ecosystem or ecosystems. This is not surprising given the state of scientific knowledge about ecosystems which tends to be broadly-based conceptually but limited to smaller, more specific pieces practically.

One can conclude that the reports provide a reasonable product given that they provide the information that they contracted to provide..

However, current questions remain outstanding:

  1. What links are possible with other databases (eg. update Richards et al, 1976)?

  2. What methods of database combination are available, what are their pros and cons, which ones would we prefer to use, and why?

  3. Where is data unavailable or sparse - geographically, in what subject areas?

  4. Given information from questions 1-3, which databases are best updated to provide geographic differentiation of agricultural sustainability?

  5. Given questions 1-4, which areas in Southern Ontario are more suitable and/or are at risk?

In summary, it is apparent upon review of all of the reports that the preparation of a data base for agriculture requires an additional framework which provides classification, integration and correlation. Without that framework, measurement of environmental/ecological change will be exceedingly difficult. Stated in other words, there are some issues that may benefit from additional discussion/study. These issues include:

  • the variables needed to evaluate agriculture, how they are presented in classes or groups (classified) and whether they are necessary/mandatory or desirable;

  • the scale at which information needs to be presented - planners tend to use information at regional scales, whereas farmers have a need for more detail in low input/variable input agriculture;

  • the definition of variables.

  • matters such as slope class, landscape, land use, and various interpretations from capability through to existing versus potential erosion would benefit from a single accurate, precise definition. It is not likely that consensus is possible for this set of accurate precise definitions; it will likely need to be imposed;

  • the definition of areas at risk (risk of loss / risk of degradation in environment and for productivity; risk related to mortality, health of farmers and the public; risk to economic returns; risk to resource quantity/quality in what location; risk related to level of resilience - environment, economic;

  • problems of duality/contradiction - a positive solution to one ecological component may negatively affect another input; and

  • links to non-agricultural influences - sewers and other infrastructure that may affect agriculture directly or indirectly.



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