- John Smithers and Barry Smit, Dept. of Geography, University of Guelph,
Evaluation Summary (Tech. Transfer Report Summaries)
View / Download Complete Report [312 KB pdf]
Associated SWEEP/LSP Research
Completed: January, 1989
adoption, soil conservation, extension, program planning, awareness,
Purpose and Overview
Concern over the degradation of soil and water resources has prompted
the development of numerous technological advancements in agriculture. These
technologies, combined with the resurrection of some traditional farming
methods, provide the means for using agricultural lands in ways that minimize
environmental degradation. Despite these positive developments, technological
advancements are of little value until they are applied. Consequently, there
now exists considerable interest in identifying and evaluating the factors
that influence technology transfer.
Soil conservation research in Ontario and other jurisdictions suggests
that many farmers are aware of the existence of soil conservation technologies,
and are favourably disposed toward land stewardship. Despite these facts,
the adoption of conservation technologies and practices has not been widespread.
It is now evident that positive attitudes and awareness are necessary, but
not sufficient, to ensure adoption. The conclusion is that other forces
are constraining many farmers from acting on their pro-conservation attitudes.
The purpose of this research is to identify barriers to conservation
in agricultural land use, and to assess the prospects for their removal.
The major objectives of the study are:
to identify the nature and extent of conservation practices by farmers
in Southwestern Ontario,
to identify, characterize and evaluate the major barriers to the use
of conservation practices, and
to consider factors which promote and/or obstruct adoption of soil
conservation practices for policies and programs.
Strategy and Methods
The completion of this study involved a review of scholarly and professional
literature, the collection of primary data pertaining to farms and farmers
through the administration of a mail questionnaire and through telephone
interviews, and the use of secondary data sources as appropriate. Primary
data for the study were collected between August and November 1988.
The selection of the study area was guided by the geographical focus
of the Soil and Water Environmental Enhancement Program, and the desire
to include a range of biophysical conditions and farm business types. In
view of these requirements, the counties of Kent and Oxford were selected
Prior to undertaking the analysis, it was necessary to devise a measurement
technique for assessing conservation practice use among farms. A classification
scheme was developed which reflected the intensity or level of conservation
effort based on the number and type of practices used. The classification
scheme was used to identify physical, personal and farm business factors
related to higher levels of adoption. While considerable variation existed
between adopter groups, over 90 per cent of respondents claimed to use at
least some conservation practice on the land they farmed.
Summary of Results
A range of variables relating to the human, physical, and economic characteristics
of the farm operation were tested for their possible association with the
use of conservation practices. Significant influences on adoption were:
scale of farm operations, perceptions of erosion and other soil problems,
age of the farm operator, membership in farm organizations, concern over
the seriousness of erosion as an agricultural issue, and tenure. Several
possible barriers to conservation practice use were inferred from the findings.
They include lack of land, lack of investment capital, age (at either extreme),
and may include failure to recognize soil problems, lack of knowledge regarding
possible solutions, and lack of conservation concern.
The issue of reported or perceived barriers to adoption, and the prospects
for their removal was addressed. While a broad range of barriers to adoption
was identified, the most commonly cited were perceived inadequacy of the
technologies, perceived lack of need for practices, financial constraints
relating to investment capital and foregone income, and the difficulty of
incorporating specific practices into existing management systems.
Nearly two-thirds of the respondents indicated that they were interested
in adding some (or more) conservation practices to their management system.
Several conditions or actions, needed to facilitate adoption, were identified.
These included the need for proof of the effectiveness and efficiency of
practices, higher profits in farming, financial and technical assistance
to assist with implementation, and demonstrated need for changes to the
current management system.
With respect to policy alternatives and implications, farmers responded
most favourably to initiatives which feature assistance and education rather
than legislation and regulation. While nearly 60 per cent of respondents
preferred some form of financial assistance, less than 25 per cent listed
economic factors as the key barrier to adoption. The study results indicate
that increased extension, and applied research into the refinement of conservation
technologies may offer more potential for increasing adoption than increased
reliance on financial incentives.
(From Technology Transfer Report Summaries - A. Hayes, L. Cruickshank,
The intent of this study was to determine for the SWEEP area: the nature
and extent of the adoption of conservation technology; the barriers to adoption;
and, the preferences for policy options to address these.
The literature review provided a detailed and comprehensive framework
for this multidisciplinary study. Mailed questionnaires, interviews with
non-respondents and secondary data were used to conduct the study in the
counties of Kent and Oxford. Binary methods of data collection (yes/no)
were used to ascertain level of adoption: ordinal approaches (sliding scales)
would have provided more information. The data were analyzed by using tabulations,
summaries of qualitative data, calculations of soil erodibility and multivariate
techniques to compare responses of producers grouped by likelihood for adoption.
The results included the perceptions of the respondents together with
the relation of responses to personal, business and biophysical characteristics.
Respondents stated their reasons for adoption (in descending order of importance)
as: a long-term investment; to address immediate resource degradation problems;
to lower production costs; to improve soil resources; and, an orientation
towards stewardship. The following features had significant influence on
adoption: farm size, awareness and perception of problems, age of producer,
membership in farm organizations, concerns about the environment and land
ownership. Respondents stated that their barriers to adoption included:
Other features from the database were inferred to be related to barriers
to adoption such as lack of land, lack of capital, age, and may include
failure to recognize problems, lack of knowledge and lack of concern. The
farmers interviewed identified prerequisites for adoption such as verification
that the technologies work, higher profits in agriculture, financial and
technical assistance, and demonstrated need for change.
money is not the only barrier to change (see above)
pride or knowledge are likely barriers to change on the farm
your neighbours change for economic, environmental and personal reasons
soil conservation is not just for cash croppers
learn more about a "systems" approach and develop one for your operation
learn from others - get involved - support your local Soil and Crop
For government agencies
education and technical assistance (including technology development)
are specified and inferred prerequisites to change
financial assistance is important but cannot be independent of education
and technical assistance
continue to foster systems approach to development and extension work
focus on those most able/likely to change
technologies must work before farmers will implement them
SWEEP Report #3 - An Economic Assessment of
the Distribution of Benefits Arising from the Adoption of Conservation Practices
in Crop Production in Southwestern Ontario
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
LSP7008 - Differences in Soil Conservation
between Operator-Owned and Rented Land
Future Research: ( ) indicates reviewers suggestion for
priority, A - high, C - low.
(C) This approach is appropriate for further research regarding other
areas in agriculture and environmental quality. A follow-up or complementary
study to examine the adoption of waste, pest, water and nutrient management
would provide useful direction for future programming.
Thursday, May 19, 2011 01:15:05 PM