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SWEEP Report #20

Conservation Tillage Equipment: Availability,
Utilization and Needs

Researchers:
James White and Bruce McCorquodale, InfoResults Limited, Brampton, Ont.

Executive Summary

Evaluation Summary (Tech. Transfer Report Summaries)

View / Download Final Report [268 KB pdf]

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research

 

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Completed: May 13, 1991

Key Words:

survey, equipment, conservation tillage, farmers, manufacturers, equipment dealers, extension personnel, modifications, planters, drills, adoption, availability, needs

Executive Summary

Introduction

Background

Agriculture Canada commissioned InfoResults Limited to conduct a study of conservation tillage equipment to determine the availability of various machines, their use by farmers and the farmers' needs which are presently not being met. One of the potential constraints to the adoption of conservation tillage practices is the lack of appropriate equipment. This project is a first effort to review the need for and availability of conservation tillage equipment.

Study Objectives

The objectives of the study were to: document the farmers' level of interest in conservation tillage and tillage equipment; determine the availability of different types of machinery; determine what modifications farmers have made; establish what manufacturers have done and are considering; and explore ways the government could assist innovators.

Research Procedures

A sample of 19 farmers, 10 extension personnel, 18 equipment dealers and distributors and 11 equipment manufacturers were interviewed using a standard questionnaire.

Research Findings

Introduction

The conservation tillage equipment was defined to include any equipment used to undertake primary tillage, seed bed preparation, or the planting of crops under limited or no-till conditions. Conservation tillage refers to a cultivation system in which 20% or more of the crop residue has been left on top of the ground.

The reader should be careful in drawing definitive conclusions or generalizing too widely from a small sample of individuals. The scale of the study was relatively limited partly because of the exploratory nature of the study and partly due to resource constraints.

Conservation Tillage Equipment

Almost all the manufacturers and dealers had experience in selling conservation equipment. Other major areas of experience with this type of equipment involved manufacture, design and import. More of the extension personnel than the other respondents had more experience in providing advisory assistance and advice to farmers. The types of CTE with which the respondents had the most experience tended to be seed bed preparation and planting equipment.

All the dealers and extension personnel and four-fifths of the farmers were aware of modifications have being made to machines. About one-third of the manufacturers were not aware of such modifications. More respondents mentioned that modifications were made to planters than to other types of machinery.

Machinery Needs

Fewer of the farmers than extension specialists or dealers believed that existing CTE allows farmers to meet their needs. Generally, all three groups agreed that farmers' seed bed preparation equipment needs are better met than those of planting or weed control equipment. One-third of the farmers say their own conservation equipment needs are not being met. The percentage of each group believing farmers have needs which are not being met were: manufacturers 46%; dealers 39%; extension 100%; and farmers 53%. The greatest unmet needs were: how to use existing equipment and equipment at moderate cost. The major reason given by farmers for other farmers needs not being met was their lack of knowledge.

New Equipment

The overwhelming majority of extension dealers and manufacturers expect new CTE will be developed in the next two or three years to meet farmers needs. Fewer, four-fifths of the farmers, expect new CTE will be developed. Reasons for anticipating new equipment were, an increase in demand, the belief new equipment is being developed and the innovativeness of farmers.

Ninety percent of the manufacturers and all the dealers believed that the market for conservation tillage and seeding equipment will increase. Just over one-quarter of both groups expect an increased demand for traditional tillage and seeding equipment.

More dealers than manufacturers believed modifications are under way to drills and planters. The dealers generally believed the modified equipment will be available in one year but all the manufacturers expected modifications would only be available in two years. The suggested areas of future emphasis for future CTE were: seed placement/control; fertilizer placement; residue management; and herbicide application.

Conservation Farming

Almost three-quarters, 72%, of the respondents are quite or generally positive about conservation tillage. The least positive group were the extension specialists. They supported conservation tillage on the basis of reduced water and wind erosion and saving time and money.

Impediments to adoption of CTE, in the opinion of all the respondents were: too risky 33%; lack of awareness 28%; do not believe will work 17%; problems with clay soils 10%; and lack of equipment 2%. Other impediments to adoption volunteered by the respondents were: cost 41%; tradition 25%; and the lack of managerial skills 14%.

Awareness of SWEEP ranged from all the extension personnel, to 63% of farmers, 36% of manufacturers to 28% of dealers. The respondents had few suggestions as to ways by which SWEEP could encourage conservation tillage. Grants to farmers were only supported by six individuals. On-farm demonstrations were favoured by over half of the extension personnel and farmers.

Those aware of SWEEP supported more on-farm trials, using innovative farmers to demonstrate practices, networking, promotion, etc. The role of communication was emphasized.

Conservation Tillage Equipment

The respondents indicated there was less need to promote conservation tillage equipment than the concept of conservation tillage. Ideas suggested included grants, the rental of equipment, promotion and on-farm trials.

A minority approved of government giving grants to farmers or manufacturers. Actions suggested included a land stewardship program, research and better recommendations regarding specific pieces of equipment.

Conclusions

  1. The adoption of conservation farming is not being seriously impeded by a lack of appropriate equipment. A lack of knowledge and traditional farming practices appear to be greater problems than appropriate equipment.

  2. The cropping function central to conservation tillage is the planting activity. This is the area where most problems still exist despite the introduction of new planters and drills. Additional research on and adequate directions for operating various planters on different types of soils with varying levels of residue are required.

  3. The machinery industry, encompassing manufacturers, importers, fabricators and dealers, appears to be interested in being made more aware of and involved in conservation farming.

  4. The primary role of the governments of Ontario and Canada is one of communication to promote conservation tillage.

Recommendations

  1. Agriculture Canada's communication with the farm machinery industry should be increased. Suggest SWEEP personnel establish contacts with the various industry organizations to keep them informed of program activities and research findings. Encourage greater participation by industry manufacturers, importers, and dealers in field trials, equipment evaluations, etc.

  2. Increase on-farm demonstrations using various types of planting equipment.

  3. Continue land stewardship type programs.

  4. Maintain communication activities, especially information of the "how to do it" type for farmers.

 

Evaluation Summary

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

This study was conducted on the premise that some Ontario farmers are understood to have stated that the machinery industry has not responded to their needs as quickly as they would have liked. A personal interview or telephone survey was done to see if the availability of appropriate machinery may be one of the constraints in the adoption of conservation tillage practices by Ontario farmers. The objectives of the study were to: document the farmers' level of interest in conservation tillage and tillage equipment; determine the availability of different types of machinery; determine what modifications farmers have made; establish what manufacturers have done and are considering; and explore ways the government could assist innovators. Due to the small sample size of 58 respondents statistical tests were not considered appropriate. The results therefore represent a qualitative rather than quantitative description of the state of conservation farming in Ontario.

The following groups were interviewed using a standard questionnaire: 19 farmers, 10 extension personnel, 18 equipment dealers and distributors and 11 equipment manufacturers. The study concluded that the adoption of conservation farming is not being seriously impeded by a lack of appropriate equipment. A lack of knowledge, and tradition appear to be greater problems than appropriate equipment. Cost was also a factor. The study also found that the success or failure of conservation tillage depends primarily on where the seed, fertilizer and herbicides are placed in the soil. Those interviewed felt that this area still had the most problems and warranted further research. There also appears to be a need for more information on the operation of various planters on different soil types with varying amounts of residue.

Although research findings documented a majority of dealers do not appear to be expanding into new lines of conservation equipment, the machinery industry, encompassing manufacturers, importers, fabricators and dealers, appear to be interested in being made more aware of and involved in conservation farming. However, the study found that they are not presently well informed regarding government programs in Ontario.

It was suggested that governments role (provincial and federal) is one of communication to promote conservation tillage. The study found that manufacturers need to be made more aware of programs, achievements and opportunities, while farmers need more "hands on" information and demonstrations especially in relation to how to plant in residues.

The study recommends increased communications with the farm machinery industry. This could be done primarily through contacts with various industry organizations by SWEEP personnel. Increasing on-farm demonstrations using various types of planting equipment and continuing land stewardship type programs were also recommended. The final recommendation is to maintain activities which provide information to farmers, especially the "how to do it" type of information.

Comments:

The study does a reasonable job of evaluating the availability, utilization and needs relating to conservation tillage equipment for those interviewed. The authors mention that the group surveyed were fairly knowledgeable about conservation tillage and therefore the results should be used only in that context. A survey of those less familiar with conservation tillage may have produced very different results.

The study has achieved its goal and objectives. For two main reasons: One: The project was an initial effort to determine whether or not needs were met for farmers, extension personnel, equipment dealers and manufacturers, regarding information about and the use of conservation equipment. This question we feel has been adequately answered. Secondly: farmers for this study were selected on the basis of their innovativeness and willingness to explore new cropping practices - they were leading edge cash crop farmers. Setting up a research design that would look at a more representative sample would provide less conclusive results because many of the farmers questioned would have more of a limited knowledge of, or interest in, the latest conservation tillage equipment.

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research:

  • SWEEP Report #7 - Sources of Motivation in the Adoption of Conservation Tillage

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

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

None required.

 

 

 

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Created: 05-28-1996
Last Revised: Thursday, May 19, 2011 02:04:19 PM