Ontario - Canada Logos
SWEEP Banner

SWEEP Report #1

Tillage 2000 and Its Effect on Awareness of
Conservation Tillage

K. Zimmerman, D. J. Blackburn, J. C. M. Shute, R. G. Kachanoski, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ont.

Executive Summary

Evaluation Summary (Tech. Transfer Report Summaries)

View / Download Report [278 KB pdf]  [041108]

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research



List By Number | List By Sub-Program


Completed: March, 1988

Key Words:

conservation tillage, Tillage 2000, adoption of tillage

Executive Summary


The major purpose of this study was to examine the factors that motivate farmers in southwestern Ontario to adopt conservation tillage practices. Specifically, this research focused on the adoption of conservation tillage practices in conjunction with Tillage 2000, an on-farm conservation tillage demonstration and research program.

Through analysis of the study results, it was hoped that knowledge of farmers' existing attitudes and perceptions could be used to develop more effective educational programs and incentives for higher levels of adoption.

Motivating Factors for Involvement in Tillage 2000

The factors that motivated the demonstration farmers to participate in the Tillage 2000 program were varied. The majority wanted to experiment with and/or learn as much as possible about conservation tillage, and ranked this reason as "very important" (44 percent) or "moderately important" (19 percent). One-quarter of the demonstration farmers mentioned that they knew that someone was needed as a cooperator in their area, and felt they had a responsibility to participate. Another one-quarter were personally contacted, either by Tillage 2000 staff or conservation authority staff, and asked if they would participated in the program. In rank order, the remaining reasons given were: connections with the Soil and Crop Improvement Association (three respondents); previously practiced some conservation tillage (three respondents); concerned about preserving agricultural land for the future (two respondents); and the adverse effects of conventional tillage (one respondent).

Overall, the cooperators exhibited the conventional characteristics of innovators. This was displayed through: their desire to experiment and gain new knowledge; their sense of responsibility about participating in the program; their connections with other organizations; and the fact that they were well known enough in their communities to be personally contacted by Tillage 2000 staff.

Tillage 2000's Immediate Impact

Of the 107 randomly selected respondents, 25 percent (27 respondents) were aware of the Tillage 2000 program. Seventeen percent of the randomly selected respondents recognized the program's logo, and five percent had visited a demonstration farm. Only two percent of the randomly selected respondents had changed their tillage practices as a result of the Tillage 2000 program.

Neither location of or distance from the demonstration farms appeared to play a role in awareness of the program.

The program has not, so far, had a great amount of impact on tillage practices in southwestern Ontario. However, the program was only in its second summer and had just published the results of its first year when the research for this study was conducted. The low rate of influence recorded was possibly due to the short time the program has been in existence.


In response to the findings and conclusions, several recommendations can be made:

  1. It is recommended that research and extension agencies clarify what they mean by the term conservation tillage to avoid perpetuating the various perceptions and misperceptions among the farm population.

  2. It is recommended that sources who supply information on conservation tillage emphasize that conservation tillage is a system. To obtain optimal results, conservation tillage, as a system, must be experimented with over time.

  3. It is recommended that the effect of Tillage 2000 on awareness of conservation tillage be re-evaluated at the program's end, and the results compared to those of this study to facilitate a more holistic evaluation of the program's effectiveness.

  4. It is recommended that Tillage 2000 staff increase their extension efforts to make farmers in Ontario more aware of pertinent local research. On the basis of the researcher's overall impressions after finishing the research and analysis, one further recommendation can be made:

  5. It is recommended that public and private extension agencies attempt to increase awareness of the availability of existing custom conservation tillage and/or conservation tillage equipment loan or rental, and recognize that innovators who have been practicing conservation tillage for several years are a valuable information source. This measure might aid in increasing adoption through limited trial, rather than simply providing information on the benefits of conservation tillage.

Evaluation Summary

(From Technology Transfer Report Summaries - A. Hayes, L. Cruickshank, Co-Chairs)

This study surveyed 16 Tillage 2000 cooperators and 107 randomly sampled farmers in the SWEEP watershed to examine factors that motivate farmers to adopt conservation tillage. Specifically, the study focused on the adoption of conservation tillage practices in conjunction with the Tillage 2000 demonstration project. It was hoped the results of the study could be used to develop more effective educational programs and incentives for higher levels of adoption of conservation tillage.

The results of the study indicated that the motivating factor for involvement in Tillage 2000 was to experiment with and/or learn as much as possible about conservation tillage. A larger percentage of the Tillage 2000 cooperators observed both wind and water erosion on their farm compared to the randomly selected farmers. Because of their increased awareness of erosion, this may have influenced the Tillage 2000 farmers' higher adoption rates of using conservation tillage. The Tillage 2000 cooperators had more formal education than the randomly selected farmers and it was concluded that this was a significant factor in the adoption of conservation tillage. Age did not play a role in the adoption rate.

Tillage 2000 has not had a great impact on tillage practices in southwestern Ontario although the program only had one year of data when this study was conducted.

The study recommends that a clear term be used to define conservation tillage to avoid misperceptions. Emphasis should be placed on the fact that conservation tillage is a system that may take a few years to learn. More efforts are needed to make Ontario farmers aware of local tillage research and how it applies to their farm situation. Extension staff should make farmers aware of conservation tillage equipment that is available for loan, rent or custom operators that have this equipment so they can try the practice first. Also, the innovators should be recognized as a valuable source of information for beginning farmers.


Although the study had potential to be good, it should have been conducted closer to the end of the Tillage 2000 program (when more consistent results were reported) to see if the general farming community followed the program and adopted conservation tillage. T-2000 was intended as an on-farm research and development project and was not necessarily targeted to make farmers and neighbours more aware of conservation tillage.

The most significant finding is that more work is needed to make farmers aware of conservation tillage.

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research:

  • SWEEP Report #0 - Cropping, Tillage and Land Management Practices in Southwestern Ontario 1986

  • SWEEP Report #8 - Social Structure and the Choice of Cropping Technology: Influence of Personal Networks on the Decision to Adopt Conservation Tillage

  • SWEEP Report #9 - Conservation Practices in Southwestern Ontario Agriculture: Barriers to Adoption

  • SWEEP Report #20 - Conservation Tillage Equipment: Availability, Utilization and Needs

  • SWEEP Report #SUP-1 - Tillage 2000: 1985-1990

Future Research: ( ) indicates reviewers suggestion for priority, A - high, C - low.

None needed.




List By Number | List By Sub-Program | LSP Report List


Created: 05-28-1996
Last Revised: Thursday, May 19, 2011 12:29:28 PM