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SWEEP Report #63

Volume II.
Collection and Analysis of Field Data in the
Pilot Watersheds Study

Deloitte & Touche Management Consultants, Guelph, Ont.

View / Download Final Report  [330 KB pdf]

Executive Summary



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Completed: November, 1992

Executive Summary

This document provides details of the objectives, methodology, and results of activities related to the collection and analysis of field data pertaining to Pilot Watersheds over a three year period.

The overall objective of the field data collection and analysis effort was to produce field based partial budgets comparing costs and returns (net revenue) between conventional and conservation tillage practices. Achieving this objective involved activity in three areas: developing a data acquisition instrument to facilitate collection of relevant economic data from co-operands; collecting data from co-operands and entering it in a database that would facilitate cleaning, storage, retrieval, and analysis of the data; and carrying out a cost analysis of field operations performed and materials applied.

Pocket sized booklets designed to assist co-operands in recording data on field operations were developed and produced by Conservation Management services (CMS) in 1988. The booklets were based on data requirement specifications and design suggestions provided by Deloitte & Touche. The booklets were first used in the fall of 1988. Field technicians employed by CMS were responsible for distributing the booklets, encouraging co-operands to complete them, collecting completed booklets, doing a preliminary check for completeness and accuracy, and forwarding the booklets to Deloitte & Touche for data entry, cleaning, and analysis.

The database system used to deal with Pilot Watersheds (PWS) data is a slightly modified version of the system developed to deal with Tillage 2000 data. It consists of separate files of information for farms, fields, crops, operations, custom work, materials, and machinery linked together in a "relational" database.

Preparing partial budgets involved costing every operation involved in the production of particular crops, and aggregating those costs to arrive at the cost of all operations involved in the production of a crop. The "Cost Report" program is a complex one which extracts information from the database files, costs each operation performed, and aggregates costs for each crop grown. The output of the program is a report showing the acreage, yield, machine costs, materials costs, fuel costs, and labour hours involved in the production of individual crops. The financial modelling component takes the output of the cost report, groups the budgets for like crops together, and determines the means and variation of cost components for crops in "test" (conservation tillage) watersheds in comparison to "control" (conventional tillage) watersheds.

This document includes a review of cropping and tillage practices as reported in the Pilot Watersheds Study including cropping patterns, crop yields, level of adoption of conservation tillage practices, reliability of reporting, fuel consumption, labour requirements, and operation coverage, as well as complete crop budgets.

The effort to collect economic information in the Pilot Watersheds produced a large volume of data. While it provides useful information on a number of aspects of the economics of conservation tillage practices, it did not provide a reliable basis for financial modelling at the field level. Perhaps the most important shortcoming of the data is the high degree of variability that it exhibits. Several sources of variability were identified, some of which could have been better controlled through improved collection procedures, but most of which could only be effectively removed by modifying the experimental design. Important sources of variability included: crop management practices, weather, level of adoption, and lack of proper feedback in the data collection activity.

In spite of the problems encountered, the economic data collected in the PWS provided critical input into the field level economic analysis. The method of cost analysis embodied in the costing program provides a prototype for economic analysis of field data at an operation by operation level of detail. This prototype has proven effective in dealing with data from both Tillage 2000 and the Pilot Watersheds Study.




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Created: 05-28-1996
Last Revised: Thursday, May 19, 2011 05:50:25 PM