- Edward J. Dickson and Glenn Fox, Department of Agricultural Economics
and Business, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ont.
Evaluation Summary (Tech. Transfer Report Summaries)
View / Download Full Report [581 KB pdf]
Associated SWEEP/LSP Research
Completed: March, 1988
economics, cost-benefit analysis, policy, on-farm costs, off-farm
costs, conservation tillage, soil erosion
The purpose of this study is to compare the on-farm and off-farm costs
of soil erosion and assess the distribution of benefits arising from adoption
of conservation tillage practices in selected watersheds in southwestern
Ontario. The three watersheds studied are the Big Creek watershed in Essex
County, the Newbiggen Creek watershed in Middlesex County, and the Stratford/Avon
watershed in Perth County. The conventional tillage practice in all three
watersheds is fall moldboard ploughing.
Simulation models are used to estimate changes in gross erosion, sediment
delivery to streams, and farm net returns that accompany adoption of conservation
tillage systems. A budgeting approach is used to estimate the off-farm costs
of sedimentation from cropland and the off-farm benefits of adoption of
conservation tillage practices. These benefits range from $9.93 to $71.70
per hectare and outweigh the on-farm cost of adoption in most cases.
In the past, the principal rationale for soil conservation policy in
Ontario has been to preserve soil productivity. Recent emphasis on both
soil and water quality with respect to soil erosion indicates that policy
makers have begun to realize the magnitude of the off-farm impacts. The
results of this study imply that this shift in emphasis should continue.
(From Technology Transfer Report Summaries - A. Hayes, L. Cruickshank,
The intent of this study was to determine the relative cost-benefits
of soil erosion control by conservation tillage. There are measurable costs
and benefits on and off the farm. It was the thesis of the authors that
off-farm benefits far exceed on-farm benefits and, as such, public policy
should reflect this.
The researchers chose three representative watersheds in southwestern
Ontario for their study. The on-farm portion of the study involved gathering
sufficient cropping and economic information to predict the relative cost
and benefits of conventional and conservation cropping/tillage systems using
the Soil Conservation Economic (SOILEC) model. The Guelph model for evaluating
the effects of Agricultural Management Systems on Erosion and Sedimentation
(GAMES) was used to predict sediment loadings to surface waters from several
cropping and tillage system scenarios. External data from OMAF statistics
and University of Guelph research publications were used where local data
was unavailable. Models were run to determine relative costs, net returns
and benefit/cost ratios. Off-farm cost were expressed in terms of loss to
fisheries, water treatment costs and other damages such as contaminants
The authors concluded that: conservation tillage is the most cost-effective
tillage system in most of the watershed areas; yield losses from conservation
tillage exceeded labour and energy savings; off-farm benefits outweigh on-farm
benefits; public policy should be directed to compensate on-farm economic
losses with financial assistance; and, financial assistance programs should
be targeted to areas where off-farm benefit/cost ratios exceed on-farm benefit/cost
The rationale for this work and the research work itself was sound and
There are several concerns:
The authors' position inadvertently dismisses present efforts to develop
cost-effective conservation technologies. Their assumption that reduced
tillage = reduced yields = reduced profits is invalid. Release of this
information has already caused misconceptions in the countryside.
There appears to be a degree of bias in the literature reviewed which
implied that the research results were inevitable.
The operational definition for No-till reflects research done at Elora
but not on-farm research results from the Tillage 2000 program. "No-till"
in Ontario does allow for minimal within row tillage and residue management.
The yield and cost/benefit analysis is considerably better for this more
representative form of `No-till'.
There continues to be controversy regarding on-farm economics of conservation
practices. There is no evidence of specific cost items included in this
document to ascertain the validity of the model used.
Economics is an important motivator for change but does not entirely
explain the behaviour of farmers.
This work should not be considered as the definitive work on economic
analysis of conservation tillage.
The most significant finding was the verification that planting or drilling
into high crop residue cover without proper residue management results in
lower yields and returns when compared to conventional practices.
SWEEP Report #7 - Sources of Motivation in the
Adoption of Conservation Tillage
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: Barriers to Adoption
SWEEP Report #10 - An Economic Evaluation of
Tillage 2000 Demonstration Plot Data (1986-1988)
SWEEP Report #11 - An Economic Evaluation of
Tillage 2000 Demonstration Plot Data (1986-1989)
SWEEP Report #SUP-1 - Tillage 2000: 1985-1990
Future Research: ( ) indicates reviewers suggestion for
priority, A - high, C - low.
(B) There is a need for more research into integrated approaches to modelling
resource, farm management and economic data for the purposes of extension
and program planning.
Thursday, May 19, 2011 12:51:10 PM