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SWEEP Report #2

A Review of Farm-Based Soil Conservation Research
and Development

Researchers:
D. Cressman, Ecologistics Limited, Waterloo, Ont.
 

Executive Summary

Evaluation Summary(Tech. Transfer Report Summaries)

View / Download Final Report [389 KB pdf]

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research

 

 

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Completed: March, 1988

Key Words:

soil conservation, conservation practices, research, ridge till, no-till, technology transfer, organic, tillage equipment, crop rotation, cover crops, planting equipment

Executive Summary

Accelerated efforts to conserve soil and water at the farm level are essential if programs such as the Soil and Water Environmental Enhancement Program (SWEEP) are to achieve their goals of improving water quality and agricultural productivity in southwestern Ontario.

In light of these concerns, the Technology and Evaluation (TED) component of SWEEP initiated this study to:

  • provide comprehensive information on conservation practices being tested and adopted in Ontario by farm operators experienced in conservation research and development;
  • determine the reasons for choice of conservation technologies or practices within the context of particular management systems;
  • identify conservation problems that the TED program should subsequently address in its research program; and
  • identify leaders in on-farm conservation who have been providing and/or are willing to provide a leadership role in technology transfer.

Personal interviews were conducted with twenty-seven farmers who are among the leaders in the range of practices and technologies that contribute to conservation farming systems. Five of the twenty-seven participants have incorporated on-farm conservation practices into commercial-sized organic farming systems.

Survey participants have demonstrated initiative in collecting information and equipment to permit on-farm practice and technology evaluation, have integrated these measures into their management systems, and have been among the first in their locale to test and adapt the particular technology. Respondents are located in 12 counties in southwestern Ontario.

The major data collection efforts focused on completing an inventory of conservation practices and technologies employed on-farm, as well as the problems associated with their use. This inventory included information on cropping practices, tillage and planting practices, and land management practices.

Wherever possible, use of these practices was cross-tabulated with farm physical characteristics including enterprise type, main soil type, corn heat units, drainage and slope characteristics. Based on the project objectives and the small number of survey participants, the data analysis was primarily descriptive in nature.

Respondents were asked in summary to identify and rank conservation research needs that researchers should be addressing under conservation farming systems. These are listed below in order of priority:

  • weed control/herbicides
  • tillage system effects/packages
  • specific equipment modifications; cover crops/rotations; fertility under conservation systems
  • soil biosphere changes
  • variety response
  • allelopathic effects of winter wheat and winter rye on succeeding crops

Recommendations to the TED Program

As a result of these and other survey findings, recommendations have been made to the TED Program in four areas of conservation research: agronomy; tillage/planting equipment and systems; technology transfer within the farm community; and institutional and agency response.
  1. Agronomy
    1. Herbicides
      • Application rates, timing of application and combinations of herbicides currently registered for use under conventional tillages should be thoroughly tested under a variety of soil texture and residue types within conservation tillage systems.
    2. Cover crops and rotations
      • Research should be undertaken to determine:
        • the cause of, and means to alleviate allelopathic effects of heat and rye stubble on succeeding crops
        • the extent of nitrogen benefits from legume crops under fall vs. spring killing and tilling
        • cover crops effective in suppressing weeds under any tillage system
        • effective means of controlling quackgrass in corn without using residual herbicides
    3. Seed varieties/Fertilizer forms and placement
      • Evaluations of currently available seed varieties, and fertilizer forms and placement should be undertaken under all tillage/planting systems which alter residue management relative to conventional systems.

     

  2. Tillage/Planting Equipment and Systems
    1. TED, in cooperation with experienced and practicing farmers, should document the development of system packages which incorporate state-of-the-art knowledge regarding conservation tillage systems. Trouble-shooting tips and contact people to assist in problem resolution should be included.

     

  3. Technology Transfer
    1. Among Conservation Leaders
      • Where possible, TED should provide support for maintaining conservation leaders on the leading edge of farm-based conservation practice and technology development. This could take the form of providing a central location for state-of-the-art conservation information, supporting publication of a newsletter, or providing funding for workshops to review advances in conservation research and development.
    2. Within the Farm Community
      • TED should promote continued and expanded Soil and Crop Improvement Association conservation-oriented activities such as those currently being undertaken through the Joint Agricultural Soil and Water Conservation Program. Such endeavours facilitate information exchange between farmers with varying degrees of experience in conservation farming.
    3. Exchange Between Organic and Conservation Farmers
      • TED should promote information and technology exchange between conservation and organic growers in areas of mutual interest.
      • TED should also consider holding consultation with organic growers to assess the most promising conservation practices and their applicability to conventional conservation systems.

     

  4. Institutional/Organizational Responses
    1. Registration of Herbicides
      • TED should encourage Agriculture Canada to take the appropriate steps to speed, where possible, the registration process of environmentally safe and effective herbicides and tank mixes for pre-plant burndown of weeds and cover crops.
    2. Communicating the TED Research Mandate to Conservation Leaders
      • TED should clearly articulate its mandate to conservation leaders in a way that demonstrates the necessity in the long-term for 'statistically defensible' results.
    3. Context for Research
      • TED should explore ways to expand the network of farm cooperators who are currently conducting on-farm research.
      • Furthermore, TED should consider areas of research that could be termed "farm-based evaluations" in which farmers manage the evaluation process. Compiling tillage system packages or evaluating particular equipment prototypes are possible ways farmers could contribute to this evaluation process.

 

Evaluation Summary

(From Technology Transfer Report Summaries - A. Hayes, L. Cruickshank, Co-Chairs)
 
The objectives of the study are:
  • to provide comprehensive information on conservation practices being tested and adopted in Ontario by farm operators experienced in conservation research and development.
  • to determine the reasons for choice of conservation technologies or practices within the context of particular management systems.
  • to identify conservation problems that the TED program should subsequently address in its research program.
  • to identify leaders in on-farm conservation who have been providing and/or willing to provide a leadership role in technology transfer.

A survey was conducted with 27 farmers who were among the leaders in the range of practices and technologies that contribute to conservation farming systems. Personal interviews and a workshop was held to help collect this data and summarize it in a form TED could use.

The following points are the needs the farmers felt should be addressed by TED:

  1. Research Needs
    1. Herbicides
      • look at application rates, timing of application and combinations of herbicides currently registered for use under conventional tillage systems and thoroughly test them under a variety of soil texture and residue types within conservation tillage systems.
      • more effective weed control in newly established windbreaks should also be pursued
      • more effective quackgrass control in corn without using residual herbicides
    2. Cover Crops and Rotations
      • the cause of, and means to alleviate, allelopathic effects of winter wheat and rye stubble on succeeding crops
      • nitrogen benefits from legume crops under fall vs. spring killing or tilling
      • cover crops effective in suppressing weeds under any tillage system
    3. Seed Varieties and Fertilizer Form and Placement
      • evaluate currently available seed varieties and fertilizer type and placement under various tillage/planting system particularly no-till in corn and soybeans
    4. Tillage/Planting Equipment and Systems
      • document the development of conservation systems with farmers which includes "state of the art" knowledge
      • packages should include information on: available equipment and the modifications necessary to work in different soil textures and residue types, timing of operations, appropriate agricultural chemicals, their means of application, seed varieties, cost data relevant to system changes, trouble shooting tips and contact people to assist in problem resolution

      At the workshop the areas of research that were ranked high include:

      • management of variable fields (erosion, phosphorus loss under various management systems)
      • nutrient distribution under conservation management practices
      • weeds under reduced tillage
      • integrated weed management: biological, cultural, field scouting, time effects
      • equipment modifications and development
      • fertilizer placement equipment: modifications and development
      • benefits and costs associated with fertilizer placement: emphasis on phasing into conservation farming
      • conservation tillage and water quality: macropores, improved structure and impact on herbicide and N movement

      The role of farmers in TED research was discussed. Topics covered included technical support required to conduct research, acceptable field lay out, data collection/record keeping, expected levels of funding. Greater involvement of farmers in the research process must occur if this mandate is to be fulfilled. Farmers' preference for research involvement is on a cooperative basis with the researcher so they have some say in experimental design and set-up.... not just leasing the land to researchers.

     

  2. Technology Transfer
    1. Among Conservation Leaders
      • provide support for maintaining conservation leaders on the leading edge of farm-based conservation practices and technology development
      • provide a central location for state-of-the-art conservation information being developed in Ontario and USA
      • documentation of "who is doing what" would facilitate networking among those showing leadership in conservation research and development
      • financial support for publication of a newsletter to be circulated to conservation leaders
      • provide funding for workshops to review advances in specific conservation practices and technologies
    2. Within the Farm Community
      • promote continued and expanded Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association conservation oriented activities such as those currently being undertaken through the Joint Agricultural Soil & Water Conservation Program
      • local farmer to farmer referral and support networks have been found to provide locally relevant information that is judged to be credible and trustworthy
    3. Between Organic and Conservation Farmers
      • promote information and technology exchange between conservation and organic farmers
      • hold consultations with organic growers including on-farm visits, to assess the most promising conservation practices and their applicability to conventional conservation systems

     

  3. Institutional/Organizational Responses
    1. Registration of Herbicides
      • encourage Agriculture Canada to take the appropriate steps to speed the registration process of compounds
      • a list was provided that included tank mixes, new chemicals and fungicides that are important in conservation crop production systems
    2. Communicating TED Research Mandate to Conservation Leaders
      • articulate its mandate to conservation leaders in a way that demonstrates the necessity in the long-term for "statistically defensible" results
      • role and importance of farm-based testing and evaluation conducted by farmers as they attempt to fine-tune systems on a daily basis must be recognized for its contribution to the advancement of conservation farming systems
    3. Context for Research
      • explore ways to expand the network of farm cooperators who are currently conducting on-farm research
    4. Institution/Agribusiness Cooperation
      • solicit the involvement of agribusiness in promotion of conservation farming techniques i.e. through an information centre or multi-media public service conservation presentations

Comments:

The report gives a good summary of the conservation practices used by the leading farmers at the time of the survey. The reader must keep in mind that the survey was of a select small group for a fairly specific purpose and so the results would not have a broad application. Many of the research recommendations were included in the TED component. This would suggest that this exercise was useful and did provide valuable input for TED.

The technology transfer recommendations do not take into account another component of SWEEP. The Technical Assistance component (OMAF) was running Tillage 2000, monitoring progress in research and attempting to facilitate the flow of information between farmers and was beginning the development of systems packages.

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

None required. The evaluation of SWEEP should help document whether or not TED research hit the target audience and what further research needs should be addressed to further conservation farming and environmental sustainabilit
 

 

 

 

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Created: 05-28-1996
Last Revised: Thursday, May 19, 2011 12:33:24 PM