- Ecologistics Ltd., Waterloo, Ont.
View / Download Report [243 KB pdf]
Completed: May, 1994
The mandate of the
Soil and Water Environmental Enhancement Program (SWEEP) was to
reduce phosphorus loadings to the Lake Erie basin and to maintain or
improve agricultural productivity by reducing or correcting soil erosion
and degradation. Conservation cropping and tillage systems were
identified as the best means to achieve these goals over such a wide
geographic region as the Lake Erie watershed. The Pilot Watershed Study
(PWS) was developed as a means of evaluating the impact of conservation
systems on soil erosion and degradation, water quality and crop
production when implemented on a watershed basis.
The development and successful
implementation of integrated phosphorus and soil management strategies
in agricultural areas is a complex undertaking. Because climate and
geology are not manageable parameters in most instances, management of
nutrient export and soil erosion in the agricultural environment tends
to focus on the structural and non-structural erosion control practices
which can be implemented by individual farmers. The potential to reduce
nutrient runoff, soil erosion and degradation, as well as factors
including ease of implementation, farm community acceptance,
agricultural productivity and agricultural cost must all be considered
in developing workable control options.
The components of the study documented in
this report relate to the following objectives and strategies developed
by the study contractors in keeping with the general objectives of the
- To achieve a high level of adoption of
the most appropriate soil and water conservation practices among farm
operators utilizing lands in the test watersheds.
Strategy: Develop and utilize improved
soil and water conservation planning tools for application at the farm
and watershed levels.
Develop and utilize contract
arrangements with cooperating farm operators which specify and
compensate for participation in the project without "buying" their
- To determine the nature and degree of
changes in relevant soil and water quality parameters and crop yields
as influenced by "basin-wide" soil and water practices.
Strategy: Develop and apply mechanisms
to encourage adoption of soil and water conservation practices
throughout the life of the project in the test watersheds and to
discourage adoption in the control watersheds.
Evaluate improvements to planning tools
(models) achieved during the sub-program. Evaluate factors that affect
the adoption of soil and water conservation practices and that
influence farmer attitudes towards both the practices and the goals of
- To prepare information about the
sub-program activities and results and to transmit this to
participating farmers and other related SWEEP sub-programs.
Strategy: Collect and transmit, as
required, to the SWEEP sub-program contractor responsible for the
farm-level and basin-wide economic analysis.
Prepare information on activities and
results for the communications sub-program contractor.
Prepare periodic reports to cooperating
farmers on activities and results in written and meeting formats.
To achieve the objectives of the PWS it was
evident from the outset that a high degree of interaction between the
project proponents and the landowners/farm managers operating within the
targeted watersheds was required. Because the project proposed the
adoption of conservation practices within the test watersheds a teaching
or extension approach was necessary to first increase awareness and
identification of the problems and then to encourage the successful
adoption of suitable solutions. The strategy used to implement the study
was guided by the proactive nature of the PWS and was formulated on the
basis of an adoption incentive package and a recognition of the human
dimensions to providing technical support in any extension program.
The provision of incentives and technical
support was designed to:
A conscious effort was made to ensure that
incentives to participate in the study were provided to both test and
control cooperators and that these incentives did not distort the basic
economic motivations that govern farm operations by "buying"
- lessen the risk or perceived risk
associated with new management practices:
- encourage cooperators to be as open as
possible to a variety of new practices which were consistent with
their own conservation objectives and farm management systems; and
- compensate for project-related
learning, inconveniences, and potential out-of-pocket costs.
As a result the implementation of the PWS
was achieved by providing the cooperators with access to:
- conservation equipment, and
- financial assistance.
Information and Education:
- The approach and process used during
the implementation phase of the PWS was appropriate. Results indicate
that study objectives were met.
- The project newsletter was critical to
keeping all cooperators and other interested parties informed about
the project on a regular basis. Survey results indicated that all
cooperators read the newsletter at least sometimes with a majority
reading it always.
- The provision of printed material
about conservation practices and issues from a variety of sources
increased the interest of cooperators and advanced the adoption
process. Provision of a one year subscription to the magazine
Successful Farming caused many favourable remarks from the cooperators
and resulted in renewed subscriptions paid by the farmers themselves.
- A responsive technical support system
was important to maintaining cooperator interest in adopting
- Meetings, workshops and tours were
very important educational tools in the PWS. When asked for input
producers indicated a preference for tours to see solutions in
practice and meetings with a specific management theme using
recognized speakers. During and following the above an increased
enthusiasm and interest in conservation practices was often observed
amongst the attending cooperators.
- Social functions incorporated in the
PWS were useful but not critical to building a working relationship
between project staff and cooperators. Socializing between project
staff and cooperators occurred during meetings, workshops and
especially tours. Although the aim of the social functions that were
organized early in the PWS was to foster a family and community
involvement in the project the absence of these appeared not to be
missed during the latter stages of the study in two of the three pairs
- Community interest increased as the
project proceeded. Study staff and cooperators were asked to give
presentations and host visitors.
Cooperator Agreements and Compensation
- See PWS report Evaluation of
Conservation Systems: Cooperator Attitude Change.
- In the PWS, as a proactive, targeted
project where results were required within a relatively short adoption
timeframe, an incentives component including access to information,
experience, specialized equipment and financial assistance was
Without the above tools to encourage
immediate cooperator participation in the PWS project staff felt that
several more years would have been required to achieve the objectives
of the project.
- The objectives and timeframe of the
project influenced the allocation of resources between and within the
For example achieving a change in crop
rotation patterns was not feasible within the PWS and was therefore
not emphasized. Significant resources were allocated to providing a
complete technical support service to cooperators in order to reduce
potential short term adoption risks. In a longer term project the
emphasis on these and other items in the incentive component would
- Having completed the implementation
phase of the original study, the allocation of resources was
appropriate to meet the objectives.
Comments provided by the cooperators
and project staff indicated a general satisfaction with the benefits
package. (See also PWS report Evaluation of Conservation Systems:
Cooperator Attitude Change.)
Conservation Farm Planning:
- The agreement and compensation
schedule used in the PWS were appropriate for the purposes they were
intended to serve. The initial content and format of the agreement,
amendments and compensation schedule changed very little throughout
the PWS and few problems arose between the cooperators and the study.
- When compared to the cooperator
commitment created through the project implementation process the
agreement was much less useful in this regard. The agreement did serve
to involve spouses and offset liability concerns.
Indicators of Adoption:
- Using a conservation farm planning
approach which considered both on-site (farm level) and off-site
(watershed level) erosion and sedimentation impacts was a unique
feature of the approach used in the PWS.
- GAMES, through its use of the USLE,
could model sheet and rill erosion losses only. Modelling gully
erosion was not possible with GAMES. Neither was it capable of
modelling erosion by tillage displacement of soil, which research in
Ontario has shown to be a significant factor in affecting soil
This weakness in GAMES was overcome
somewhat by making crude assumptions in the effectiveness of a
structure and adjusting sediment delivery pathways to reflect this
assumption. For example, terraces were assumed to be 100 percent
effective in settling out sediment. Catchbasins were assumed to have
no settling affect and would actually improve delivery once the water
entered the tile system.
As a result of using the USLE factors
it was difficult to model subtle changes landowners made in
cropping/management practices. For example, converting from a fall
moldboard plough system to a full modified moldboard plough (cut-offs)
system was a positive measure taken by cooperators to increase soil
residue cover. It was difficult, however, to model this change in
residue management simply through the C-Factor.
A series of tables were prepared for
determining C factors for a variety of crops and residue levels to
better model the small changes in residue level remaining on the
fields following planting. If residue levels were between the levels
provided on the C factor sheets, an interpolated C factor was used.
- Only erosion and sedimentation
components of the planning process were considered by the analysis
model. The economic and other aspects were left to the planners to
evaluate using other tools and/or their own experience.
- Defining the target erosion and
sediment delivery rates proved difficult. Target erosion rates were
better defined once the 1989 water quality data became available. The
exercise of selecting applicable targets for all watersheds
illustrated the inappropriateness of a single rule-of-thumb target for
erosion and sediment delivery in consideration of the variety of
landscapes in Ontario.
- The GAMES analysis gave planners
important background data with which to initiate farm planning
discussions. Because of the capacity to model on a specific polygon
basis, it was possible for planners to address erosion sensitive areas
as well to plan on a field-by-field basis.
- The Lotus spreadsheet derived from
GAMES and the Farm Planning Module (FPM) output allowed quick
comparisons of alternative conservation solutions so that cooperators
could test their preferences and more easily adjust the effect of
practices. For example, chisel points versus chisel sweeps could be
compared by simply adjusting the residue levels which could be
- The GAMES analysis allowed users to
test the effect field management decisions would have on water quality
at the watershed outlet. The presentation of the data, however,
remained at the field scale - the management unit.
- The 1990 and 1991 Lotus spreadsheet
approach provided an efficient means of recording conservation plans
for the next crop year.
- The approach used computer analysis
tools but left it with one-to-one contact between the cooperator and
PWS field staff to make experienced decisions. This avoided cookbook
solutions and encouraged innovation.
- The primary weakness at the field
discussion level of planning was the sensitivity gap between knowing
precisely what field situations were versus what was reported in the
GAMES information. The field staff who were making recommendations to
the farmer cooperator had been provided with a great deal of helpful
information but lacked the familiarity and experience with the land
that the cooperator possessed. It was, therefore occasionally
difficult to answer questions raised by cooperators and sometimes
required time consuming (but necessary) additional site visits to the
area (polygon) of concern.
- Field discussions in conservation farm
planning were an obvious necessity. In this project they had some
additional peripheral benefits as well:
- They provided an opportunity for
cooperators to raise, and often resolve, concerns about the use of
- They provided an opportunity for PWS
field staff to establish a common identity with cooperators in
addressing the objectives of the project.
- They provided an opportunity for
cooperators to discuss or suggest ways to make the project more
acceptable, a necessary first step if an effective plan was to
follow, and an opportunity for cooperators to gain ownership in the
- In the PWS the social indicators of
adoption were monitored by documenting the attitudinal change
experienced by the cooperators. The reader is referred to the PWS
report Evaluation of Conservation Systems: Cooperator Attitude Change
for more information.
- The short term economic indicators of
adoption in the PWS were embodied in the planning and adoption
decisions of the cooperators. It may be assumed that continued
adoption of a given practice meant that in the short term the
cooperator did not experience a large enough negative impact,
including economic, to cause him to change his mind about proceeding.
- An inventory of physical change does
not indicate how effectively the changes were implemented with
resulting impacts on soil movement and water quality.
- Across all test watersheds the number
of potential conservation actions identified during the planning
sessions each year ranged from 51 to 72 discrete actions. Over the
three years documented, on average approximately half of the
identified actions were planned for at the beginning of each crop year
(August/September). The high degree of uncertainty in making plans
reflected mainly the impacts of weather and the effect this had on
farming activities. Many producers were unwilling to make a commitment
they were unsure of keeping. Without exception across all years and
watersheds the percentage of completed conservation actions was
greater than what was planned for.
- Future program planners may anticipate
an increase in actual adoption when compared with initial indications
obtained through the planning process.
- In Essex and Kettle there was a
definite general shift during the project toward the use of
conservation tillage systems. In the Pittock watershed the nature of
the adoption trends for conservation tillage systems were less clear.
There was little doubt, however, that a positive shift occurred in the
adoption of conservation tillage systems.
- In most cases the PWS acted as the
catalyst and/or means by which cooperators were able to implement
conservation buffers, seed critical areas and build structures. The
continued presence of these control practices to the end of the
project and beyond (especially with regard to the structures) served
as a useful indicator of adoption.
- In general those buffers and critical
areas considered important to achieving PWS objectives were
implemented by cooperators. The prioritization of the structures for
project purposes meant that cooperators were more likely to install
high priority structures first. The greatest adoption in this regard
was achieved in the Kettle watershed. In Essex and Pittock, where the
visual impact of the problems was less striking, the cooperators
implemented less than half of the structures suggested.
Information and Education:
- Future proactive and targeted programs
should incorporate all of the elements of the incentive package
- Future proactive and targeted programs
should ensure that staff working directly with producers are
knowledgeable and experienced in the adoption of conservation farming
Cooperator Agreements and Compensation
- Educational material should be
provided and/or available from a variety of sources including both the
project, the scientific literature and the popular press. This would
expose the cooperators to a range of viewpoints and should add
supporting evidence to the ideas promoted by the project.
- Information material regarding the
project should be current, relevant and frequent enough to maintain
the interest of the participants. A clear language writing style is
important to enhance communication. A project newsletter can serve
this purpose well.
- Technical support must be responsive
to cooperator needs especially regarding specific information (e.g.
what herbicide to use under certain circumstances) and timeliness
(e.g. when a question is raised a response or recommendation is often
required immediately). For best results an "on-call" technical support
system is desirable.
- Input from project cooperators
regarding the content of the information and education component is
recommended. Producers will identify those areas of interest and
methods of learning that are of most use to them. This input allows
the cooperators to guide the project in addressing their changing
concerns about adopting conservation practices. It also gives project
staff insight into what practices cooperators may initially be most
responsive to adopting.
- Whenever possible visits to farm
operations practicing conservation measures should be encouraged. In
contrast experienced conservation farmers should be invited to meet
with cooperators on a regular basis to discuss their specific needs.
If possible this should be done at least once during a walk over the
- To help ensure adequate attendance at
general project meetings the reason and need for the meeting should be
well defined. A special interest event or guest speaker in conjunction
with the meeting will also encourage attendance.
- If resources allow, social events
should be incorporated into those programs where the target group of
cooperators is well defined. These events however could be organized
in conjunction with other project activities; for example a banquet or
barbecue held in conjunction with the annual meeting.
- If a project is visible, community
interest will exist. Satisfying requests and even seeking out
opportunities to discuss the study can build a sense of achievement in
the participants and provide a forum for positive feedback. It is
recommended that these opportunities be recognized for their value in
aiding the adoption process. If resources permit, a proactive
community information component should be incorporated into the
project plan. At the very least resources should be allocated to
serving community requests when they occur.
- When asking cooperators to give
presentations and host visitors on behalf of the project, care should
be taken to distribute the requests across a number of cooperators.
The tendency is to repeatedly call on the natural leaders in the group
instead of giving the less outspoken cooperators an opportunity to
participate in this experience.
- Care should be taken to keep formal
agreements as simple as possible while ensuring they fulfil the
purpose for which they were intended.
Conservation Farm Planning:
- Compensation payments made on an
annual basis will save time and resources when compared to payments
made on an instalment basis. This saving probably offsets the early
financial benefit (or incentive) cooperators receive for participating
in the study when the instalment plan is used.
Indicators of Adoption:
- The need for a compendium of C factor
tables applicable to Ontario should be examined. Such a document would
assist in standardizing the estimates used for modelling and farm
- Indicators of adoption should be
identified at the outset of a program so that appropriate baseline
data can be collected.
Thursday, May 19, 2011 07:25:18 PM