The two survey years were
shown to be representative samples stratified on the basis of township.
The 141 townships originally in the 1986 survey were re-visited to
produce a statistically reliable sample to bench mark data collected in
1986. Environment Canada's erosion potential maps were utilized to
designate each site visited as having a "high", "low", or "random
sample" designation. Overall the study area stratification ratio was
unchanged for both survey years, namely 83.5 % low or random to 16.4 %
high in 1986 and 83.7 % low or random to 16.3 % in 1991.
The goal of this study
was to assess whether agricultural management practices have changed
since the bench mark study in 1986 and if so, what impact these changes
could have on phosphorus delivery to the Lake Erie basin.
In order to achieve this
goal, the following agricultural management practices were assessed for
Cropping, tillage and
practices (eg. manure and fertilizer application)
practices (eg. field borders, ditch bank stabilization)
demographic information was collected so that the surveyed farms could
be more easily characterized. The interpretation of the results will
demonstrate the effectiveness of soil and water conservation measures at
the end of the SWEEP Agreement.
In 1991 a Cash Crop
farming enterprise (48.6 %) was still the principle enterprise. It
constituted (41.7%) of the 1986 sample. In decreasing order enterprises
of Dairy (18.3 %) and Swine (8.8 %) then Beef (1.0 %) farmers comprised
the remaining proportions of acreage of the 1991 sample. In both survey
years relatively few farmers had fruit/vegetables (1.2 % - 1986/91) or
sheep enterprises (0.01 %,1986 and 0.4 % , 1991).
Overall there was little
change in the size of operations between the 2 survey years. The most
predominant size of farm operation was still 40 - 99 acres in size (39
%,1991). In 1991 smaller sized operations only constituted approximately
15 % of the sample while larger farms of more than 100-199 acres made up
approximately 30 % of the sample. In 1991 there appears to be
significant percentage increased changes in the 200-399 acre farms (16
%) and 400-800 acre sized farms, (9 %) with a slight increase in the 800
plus acre size (3%).
Notable % changes in
crops grown between 1986 and 1991 occurred with spring (-15%) and fall
cereals (-5 %) as well as corn (-1.5 %). However, both beans (+5 %) and
forages (+2 %) showed increases. A slight increase in forages is
indicative of a small change toward the adoption of conservation
A crop rotation of
cereals and forages is often essential for maintaining good soil
structure and yields. The lengths of rotation asked ranged from none to
seven or more years. The most significant degree of percentage change in
length of rotation was indicated for the none and five year category at
approximately -16 % and - 14 % respectively. This was counterbalanced by
positive changes of approximately + 9 % each for the two and six year
length of rotation. Both one and seven year categories showed very
little incremental change. Cereals & forage in rotation remained at
approximately the same proportions for both survey years.
Reasons For Cropping
Generally there was very
little change in the reasons given for cropping change for both survey
years. In 1986 producers changed their cropping practices to reduce
erosion(18 %), for economic reasons and better crop rotations(14 %), and
because they changed crops/enterprise/land base( %).
The 1991 results
indicated that producers changed to reduce erosion (22 %), because of
poor soil structure (4 %) and wanting to have better rotations (10 %).
Economic reasons were increased by only +5 %. The rest of the reasons
were very incremental in nature.
Crops & Tillage
In 1991 most farmers were
still using conventional ploughing and planting implements. However more
acreage was being tilled using conservation tillage equipment. Overall
there were percent change decreases in use of the mouldboard plough (-9
%), modified mouldboard (-1.9 %), and tandem disc and harrows (-2.5 %).
Percent change increases were found in the cultivator (+0.9 %), Disc
Coulter Chisel plough (+4.0 %), Chisel Plough (4.5 %) and No -
till/Ridge Till (4 %).
These overall positive
trends with further analysis proved to be limited in scope and not
representative of real trends toward the adoption of soil conservation
practices by SWEEP area farmers. An examination of tillage practices
cross referenced to erosion potential, tillage machines, crops and
enterprise types of cash crop, dairy, swine and mixed provided a
reasonable check of trends toward the adoption of conservation
For High Erosion
potential lands it was found that although the percent change was
substantial for conventional tillage, it was accompanied by a slight or
modest change in the number of fields conventionally tilled, regardless
of erosion category. The above four enterprises represented 78.3 % and
81.5 % of the 1986 and 1991 total survey sample.
Encouraging gains have
been made in terms of the adoption of conservation tillage practices.
For the same erosion potential reduced tillage and enterprise type the
number of fields or percent increase showed a doubling. For no-till, the
greatest percent gains on highly erodible land were seen for cash crop
farmers. Again, there were only slight or modest gains in the number of
fields in a no-till/ridge-till practice. Dairy, Swine and Mixed farms
had no producers practising no-till on highly erodible lands in the 1991
survey. Findings were similar to this for the low and random erosion
categories and same enterprises.
In 1986 the principle
reasons given for a change in tillage were to reduce erosion, more
residue (28 %) and a change in crops/equipment (22 %). In 1991 results
showed that a change in crops/equipment (33 %) was the principle reason
followed by reduce erosion/more residue (26 %).
In 1986 approximately 78
% of farm fields were tilled in the spring while in 1991 it was
approximately 82 %. A change in spring after harvest tillage from
approximately 15 % (1986), to approximately 12 % (1991) appears
insignificant. The amount of summer tillage decreased slightly to 5 % in
1991. Most of the farmland surveyed was still tilled to a depth of 11-15
centimetres. All other depth classes remained virtually unchanged with
the exception of the 16-23 cm class which showed a decrease of
approximately 5 %.
There was no clear trend
towards adoption of conservation seedbed tillage machines but the use of
a disc/harrow declined substantially since 1986. However, the use of the
disc/harrow declined by -10 % while the cultivator increased by +5 %.
This change may only be a reflection of the cropping year as opposed to
the adoption of a particular tillage implement.
Most farmers conducted
secondary tillage using 2 passes (over 50 % in 1991) A considerable
number are tilling with 1 (32 % in 1991) or 3 (19 %) passes. As
expected, March-May was the most popular time of the year for tilling
the seedbed in both 1986 (85 %) and 1991 (80.5 %).
In 1986, the main reason
why farmers repeated their seedbed tillage was that their soil was not
fine enough (91.6 %). In 1991, the majority of farmers repeated their
seedbed tillage because the seedbed was not level enough (13.4 %) .
Other reasons, were they needed to incorporate fertilizer and herbicide
An examination of
planting methods showed that the most significant percent change in use
had occurred for a regular seed drill (-7%). Noteworthy was the +2 %
increase change in use of the modified seed drill.
As with tillage most
farmers tended to plant their fields with little consideration given for
the effects of slope (63 %, 1986, and 66 %, 1991). The categories of "On
the Contour", "Round and Round the Field", "Across the Major Slope" and
"up and Down" the major slope all showed small incremental but positive
changes in 1991.
The use of manure as a
fertilizer, method of application, timing of application and the
timeliness of its incorporation into the soil are all pertinent factors
in understanding the potential effects upon water quality. In 1986 (64%)
and 1991 (70%) of farmers did not apply manure. Generally there was very
little change in the method of application between the 2 years. Most
used a spreader and tractor, 65 % in 1991 and 73 % in 1986. Some used a
tank, 25 % in 1991 and 21 % in 1986. Injection was not practiced by
producers in both survey years. Irrigation was practiced by very few, 2
% in 1991 and 1 % 1986. There appears to be a trend toward longer times
to incorporate manure since 1986. However, there has been a -14 % change
in manure that was not incorporated. It was interesting to note that the
percentage changes in fall applications of manure have declined
significantly by - 9.5 % .
Most of the surveyed
acreage did receive either nitrogen or phosphorus fertilizer. In 1991
approximately 66 % of the acreage surveyed had nitrogen applied. In
1986, approximately 79 % had nitrogen applications applied to them.
There was also a 9% decrease in the use of phosphorus fertilizer in
1991. However, approximately 71 % of the 1991 acreage had phosphorus
applied to it. In 1986 80 % received phosphorus. In both survey years
approximately equal proportions of producers applied their nitrogen and
phosphorus on the basis of a soil test compared to those who did not.
For both survey years
over 40 % of the acreage received nitrogen and phosphorus by being
broadcast. Nitrogen was put on through the planter on over 33% of the
acreage in both years while phosphorus was applied through the planter
to over 47% of the acreage in both years. Applications of nitrogen
through sprayer or injector were primarily used by those who applied
nitrogen fertilizer. Applications of nitrogen through sprayer or
injector have appeared to increase for nitrogen between survey years
while the same methods for phosphorus have shown a small incremental
increase for sprayer (2.7%, 1991) and a decrease for injector (0.7, 1991
%). It can be postulated that these trends reflect the adoption of
better management and cropping practices. In 1991 of those who applied
nitrogen and phosphorous, over 90 % applied it in the Spring. This is a
7-9 % increase over those applying nitrogen and phosphorus in the Spring
in 1986. A significant proportion of farmers, particularly those
applying phosphorus have stopped applying it in the fall.
Practices / Sources of Conservation Information
included a number of questions relating to additional land management
practices which may occur on the farm. Data showed that between survey
years untitled fields decreased incrementally to 22 % of the 1991
sample. Random drainage was used in 25 % of the acres surveyed and
systematically tiled fields made up the rest at 49%.
For both survey years
most farmers received their information through radio/television, farm
publications and meetings.
Twenty-two percent (22 %)
of the acreage surveyed had erosion control practices such as: strip
cropping, field borders and plough down.
In 1991 plough down was
the most frequently used erosion control practice (18.1 %) whereas strip
cropping (2.2 % of 1986 acres and 1.5 % of 1991 acres) was much less
The total area with field
borders was 1120 acres (1.5 % in 1986 and 1788 acres or 2.4 % in 1991.
The trend is toward field borders of wider widths. Those in the 3 - 6
metre category occupied 0.81 % of the 1991 acres surveyed.
In general, there was
very little change in the proportion of each erosion control structure
out of all structures between the 2 years. However, the total number of
erosion control structures did increase substantially (eg. from 800 to
1221) between 1986 and 1991. Buffer strips (29.6 %, 1986 and 26.7 %,
1991) and windbreaks (25.1 %, 1986 and 26.5 %, 1991) comprised the
majority of acreage surveyed in both years. Water erosion control
structures (18.4 %, 1986 and 20.7 %, 1991) were quite frequently