xt76ww76vb9z https://nyx.uky.edu/dips/xt76ww76vb9z/data/mets.xml   Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station. 1962 journals 120 English Lexington : Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Kentucky Contact the Special Collections Research Center for information regarding rights and use of this collection. Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station Progress report (Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station) n.120 text Progress report (Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station) n.120 1962 2014 true xt76ww76vb9z section xt76ww76vb9z ` 1
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ix · .

Progress Report 120 l October 1962
Cc M, Coughenour
with the assistance of
K. B. Kothari
Department of Rural Sociology
` Lexington

Highlights of this study of why or when farm operators think
certain soil-building and conservation practices should be used
are the following:
l. Most farmers recognized the function of soil testing `
in determining fertilizer needs, but many felt it necessary to
test only when a person had had a crop failure. This was par~ l
ticularly true of those with small cropland acreages. `
2. Farmers emphasized the need to obtain larger yields as
the dominant reason for using fertilizer on corn, but few mentioned
a soil test as a condition for fertilizing. Those with small corn
acreages were less likely to view fertilizer as necessary.
3. Relatively few had fertilized permanent pastures, although `
both users and nonusers gave improvement of pastures as the reason
one might fertilize them. Those with larger farming operations
and more contacts with agricultural agencies had more often tried
pasture fertilization.
A. The majority mentioned a soil test as a criterion for
spreading lime. Others gave folk or "natural" indicators, The \
larger the cropland acreage, the greater was the tendency to suggest
a soil test.
5. Few farmers had ever used terraces, although most recognized
them as a means of preventing erosion. Only those with more than
25 acres of cropland, some sloping fields, and a serious concern
with the problem of erosion were likely to have used them.
6. The conditions under which farmers felt contouring should
be used were similar to those for terraces.
- 2 -

_ Cn Ma Coughancur
with the assistance of
‘ Kn B0 Kcthari*
State agricultural extension services, the U. SO C0n~
. sarvation Service, and 0tP@r agricultural agencies usually recommend
V a farming practice on the basis of 1 specific scientific justificatimnn
‘ Nowevey, the ws?s0ns 05 conditions for using the practice as p@x~
Ceived hy Esrfers way pct be kusqd or the scientific justificationx
even among farmeps w%0 are regulaw users and perhaps staunch pr0~
pcnents 0f the QY&CCiCEG Nonusers may sometimes have quite "far~
` fetched" or entirely erroneous ideas as to why or when a practice
should be used; this may he a part of the reason why they have not
tried itc An example of a difference between tke scientific c0u—
ditions for using 2 practice and a common lay conception of tHe
conditions may be $@21 in the zepsors given for $0iZ tesxingr A
soil test is mereiy an objective may of assessing soii deficiencies
in relation to crop requirawamts, but it is thought cf by many
t farmers as a "cure," to be used only in case 0f a crop fcilurep
The purpose cf this report 12 to €X&TiR€ what farmers think
are the conditions for using certain soil ccnsexvauicn and z0il~
building practicws, including Scii tests, fertilizer, lime, terraces,
and contcuring, Differences in cpinicn and perception are analyzed
in relation cc whether the farmers are actgally using CH2 practice,
` and to such factors as the education cf the farmer, size of Earn
and the farmcr°s contacts with agricultural nganciesq
The data vuxe Obtained in a ITSO survey cf IMO farm operators
in 12 neigpbcrhccds of an Outer Bluegrass county, The sails in
these neighborhoods are cf two general types -— Outer Bluegrass
I (Lowell, Shelbyville, and Ueifcxd) and Wills of the Bluegrass
(Eden and Nich0lscm)¤ The farwars interviewed are 2 50 perccng
Sample of the farm cpeyvtcxs residing in the 12 neighhorhccdsvl
wAss0ciaCa Professor GE RuraZ Sociology and Graduate Assistant,
1Fcr additional details On the nsighborpcods and the farmers
interviewed sae C. N. Coughenour and No Bn Patel, Trenqg lg Qgg gf
Rec0mmenQgg Eggg ?ractig;§ ggglgi Faxw information ggggpes in Lg
Qgntuckv v€i?%bOThCOQ§¤ Lexingtonf Kentucky Agricultural Experiment
Staticm, Yrogress Report 171, January 19626
U 3 U

 - q -
In each interview the farmer was asked whether he had used
certain practices. The survey questions are summarized below:
' I
l. Soil testing —— Have you ever had any soil tested?
Have you had any soil tested in the past 3 years? ·
2. Fertilizer on corn -— Did you use commercial fertilizer
on corn which you planted in l959 or l960?
3. Fertilizer on permanent pastures —— Did you spread com—
mercial fertilizer on land being used for permanent
pasture in 1959 or l96G? 4
A. Lime "* Did you spread lime on any land on your farm in
1959 or l96??
5. Contouring —— Nave you ever farmed on the contour, that is,
have you farmed fields that were laid out with a level
and plowed and cultivated that way? .
6. Terraces —— Nave you ever built or used terraces on your D
Farmers who had not used a practice were asked whether they
would ever use it, and, if they responded affirmatively they were
asked under what conditions they would use it. lf the farmer had .
used the practice, he was asked to indicate the conditions under
which he felt the practice should be used. The intent of the
question in each case was to obtain information as to what farmers
regarded as the deciding factor for when or whether to use a par—
ticular practice.
Three-fourths of the farmers interviewed reported that, on at
least one occasion, they had had soil tested; three~fifths had tested
soil in the three years prior to the interview (Table l). Of those .
who had had soil tested, hl percent regarded soil testing as necessary
to determine fertilizer needs and to save money, while I5 percent re-
garded it as important in determining how to build soil. The remain·
ing farmers believed soil testing was a device to get ASC payments
(ID percent), or to save the farmer from repeated crop failure (32
percent). As one might expect, those who regarded soil testing as
a means of curing crop failure only infrequently find it necessary
to have soil tested. Of the 33 persons giving this reason for test-
ing soil, 26 had not had any soil tested in the 3—year period prior to
the interview.
Tn general, the usefulness of a soil test in determining fertilizer
needs is recognized as often by nonusers as users. The survey suggests
that the non—soil-test user uses fertilizer only in relatively small

 - 5 -
(?ercentage Distribution of Users and Nonusers by
Type of Reason Given)
. Had Had Soil Tested Never Had Any Soil Tested
(106 farmers, 76 percent) (Zh farmers, 2A percent)
Reasons or Conditions for Use Z Reasons or Conditions for Use Z
l. To determine what 1. To determine what com~
“ fertilizer is needed for mercial fertilizer is
crops and grasses, and needed 71
to save money bl
- 2. After crop failure, to 2. If there is insufficient
determine what ground natural or green manure,
needs; or if one can°t or canqt tell what
g determine what ground fertilizer is needed 5
¥ needs by looking at it
.·r (had not had soil tested
ll in past 3 years) 25
· 3. If there is loss of prom 3. If production is low
duction and lack of and need to know what
knowledge of ground fertilizer to use 6
needs 7
Q. To determine crop needs A. lf required in order to
' and share in ASC pay~ get government
ments lO payments 9
5. Test soil routinely to 5. If other farmers do it 9
build soil, if necessary
or when breaking new
ground 16
6. Other 1
` amounts or not at all, and that the motivation to soil test is linked to
the farmer°s convictions regarding the value of fertilizer. That many
are unconvinced of the value of commercial fertilizer under normal con~
ditions is indicated by the responses of those who had tested but said
they had done so only to prevent further crop failure.
The size of farm operations seems to be related to the use of com~

mercial fertilizer, since soil testing is most common among farmers
with 25 acres or more of cropland. Of the operators of the large
farms, Sh percent had tested soil compared with 69 percent of those
operating the small farms. Moreover, small farmers (those with less
than 25 acres of cropland), if they have tested soil, are more likely A
V than the larger operators to say that they tested to prevent crop
failure (Q7 percent compared with i5 percent). 0
Soil testing is not useful in itself, but is a means to the
efficient use of fertilizer and lime; however, not all farmers
understand this and, therefore, it is not particularly surprising `
to find a strong association between soil testing and the educational
level of the farmer (85 percent of the farmers with 8 or more years
of schooling had had soil tested, compared with only 63 percent of
those with less than 9 years), Apparently, the better~educated
farmers more readily see the connection between soil testing, use
of fertilizer, higher yields, and larger incomes because they have
more contacts with agricultural agencies. -
The great majority of the farmers interviewed had grown corn N
in one or both of the preceding years. Of those growing corn, 70 “'(§
percent had used some commercial fertilizer. As to the conditions U
for using fertilizer with corn, the dominant response was "to get l
larger yields," reported by Q2 percent of the corn growers (Table 2).
Only l2 percent volunteered the information that the need for fer»
tilizer could be indicated by a soil test, despite the fact that
most had earlier mentioned soil testing as primarily useful in dee
termining fertilizer requirements. This percentage may partially
reflect the method of questioning, but it also suggests that farmers
tend to move directly from felt needs for a crop to fertilizer pur=
chases, omitting the intervening step of having soil tested.
None of the farmers who had gg; used fertilizer with their
corn unconditionally endorsed its use. More than half seemed to
feel that fertilizer, although helpful, would not "pay" because
of their small acreages, the price of corn, etc. Traditional be- j
liefs about the fertility of virgin sod and of bottom land were
evident in the responses of l9 percent, while ll percent said they
rely on past experience. For the latter, apparently, fertilizer
might be used as a cure for declining yields, but the possibility
of increasing yields over those presently obtained does not excite
them. Indeed, the less favorable attitudes toward the use of fer-
tilizer with corn by the non—fertilizer users seems to be the primary
factor which distinguishes them from those who do use it.
Of course, there are situational factors, such as the number of
acres planted to corn, which sustain and support favorable attitudes
toward the use of fertilizer. Although only 62 percent of the farmers
with less than l$ acres of corn in 1960 had used fertilizer, it was

 . = 7 —
(Percentage Distribution of Users and Nonusers by Type of Reason Given)
Had Used Fertilizer on Corn Had Not Used Fertilizer on Corn
in Past Two Years in Past Two Years
(83 farmers, 70 percent) (36 farmers, 30 percent)
" Reasons or Conditions for Use Z Reasons or Conditions for Use Z
‘ l. To get larger yield 82 1. lf growing enough corn,
or if price of corn ime
proves A2
2. As recommended by a 2. lf farmin upland in—
soil test 12 stead of %rich) bottom
land, or if using
old land instead of new sod 19
3. Other 6 3. lf able to afford cost ll
l A Q. lf past experience ine
dicates a need for
fertilizer ll
i 5. Other kind of response 17
used by 100 percent of those with 15 acres or more of corn. Nearly
. all of the farmers growing l5 or more acres of corn held highly
favorable attitudes toward fertilizer use. while among the smaller
( growers only those who had actually used fertilizer favored it (62
ln view of the fact that about three-fifths of the farmers
with less than 15 acres of corn held favorable attitudes toward
the use of fertilizer and were using it, it seems strange that the
remaining farmers do not have favorable attitudes. To some extent
the favorable and unfavorable attitudes of the small acreage corn
growers are related to the size of their scale of over-all farm
operations measured in terms of labor·input. For example, A7 per-
cent of the small corn growers who had favorable attitudes and had
used fertilizer had large—scale farming operations2 compared with
only 22 percent of those who had not used fertilizer and had une
favorable attitudes. Perhaps some farmers with large over~a1l
operations gain experience with and develop favorable attitudes toward
In this case, large~scale operators are those with more than
2,l5O productive man work units. Fortyeeight percent of the 119
corn growers had largeescale operations.
"A productive man work unit is ...an ordinary day°s work for one
man." G. W. Forster, Farm Or anization and Mana ement, (New York:
Prentice—Hall, 3rd Ed., 19535, p. b02.

 - 3 -
fertilizer use with other crops which they transfer to their manage- » .
ment of corn growing, even when the acreage is small. Or, it may be P
that with larger operations the cost of fertilizer for corn is not
quite as prohibitive. The possible influence of contact with pro- .
fessional agriculturalists also is indicated since 76 percent of the
small corn growers using fertilizer had contacts with one or more .
agricultural agencies compared with 56 percent of those who were
not using fertilizer. · 4
A11 of the farmers interviewed had some pasture land which they
regarded as permanent, but only a fifth of them had spread commercial
fertilizer on any of it in the two years prior to 1960 (Table 3).
PASTURE? (Percentage Distribution of Users and
Nonusers by Type of Reason Given) g
E:E:E::::§=::::::::::::::::::::::::::::i?i ::a?:::i;::::::::::::::::=é A
a sed ertilizer on Ha ot sed ertilizer on
Permanent Pasture Permanent Pasture in Past~
(30 farmers, 21 percent) Two Years
(llO farmers, 79 percent)
Reasons or Conditions for Use Z Reasons or Conditions for Use Z
1. To improve quantity and 1. lf needed to improve land
quality of pasture, or to and pasture 51 7
reclaim deteriorated pasture 87
2. To obtain government (ASC) 2. If able to afford its cost 25
payments 7
3. Other response 6 3. lf have much livestock and
need much pasture ll ` \
A. Would never use fertilizer
· on pasture A
5. Other response 9
The need to improve the quality of pasture was given as the primary con-
dition for using commercial fertilizer by the majority of those who had
used it (87 percent), as well as by those who had not used it (51 per-
cent). But the fact that none of either group suggested that a soil ·
test might be used to indicate the need for fertilizer reflects the
lack of concern, in general,'with systematic improvement of pastures.
An additional 25 percent of the nonusers say that they would use com-
mercial fertilizer on their pastures if they could afford it, implying
perhaps that they recognize a need for it. While these persons see
considerations of cost in relation to expected returns as mitigating

 against using commercial fertilizer on permanent pasture, the re-
mainder either are satisfied with the way their pastures are pro-
ducing or feel that the use of fertilizer is not justified be-
cause of the small scale of their farming operations.
If a majority of the farmers feel that the need to improve
pasture is the primary prerequisite for use of commercial fertilizer,
· why have so few of those expressing this view (32 percent) actually
used fertilizer in the two years prior to the survey? Both the
scale of farm operations and the extent of contacts with agricultural
agencies seem to be closely related to actual use. Of all the farmers
giving this improvement reason as a basis for fertilizer use, 69 per
cent of the fertilizer users compared with 23 percent of the nonusers
` had had contacts with two or more agricultural agencies (Extension
Service, Soil Conservation Service, or the Agricultural Experiment
Station). Similarly, 69 percent of the fertilizer users compared with
32 percent of the nonusers had large-scale farm operations. Thus, it
would seem that the combination of objective needs and consultation
with professional agricultural specialists have been instrumental in
‘ the farmer's decision to use fertilizer on permanent pasture, once
its advantages have been recognized.
( Forty—two percent of the farm operators had spread lime on
their farms in the two years prior to the 1960 interview (Table Q).
(Percentage Distribution of Users and Nonusers by Type of Reason Given)
   i "” ` "*"“"” `" C    "`"ITE "
Past Two Years in Past Two Years
(59 farmers, Q2 percent) (81 farmers, 58 percent)
Reasons or Conditions For Use Z Reasons or Conditions For Use Z
_ 1. If recommended by soil test 53 1. If recommended by soil test 11
2. If there is soapstone in 2. If the stand of grass is
land 9 , poor or there is broom
sage in it » Q2
3. If improvement in land for 3c If Cgndjgigns Of land
CYOPS and Srassés is (cold land, soapstone)
j needed 20 indicate need Al
A. To get ASC payments 12 A. If ASC pays half the cost,
or if other farmers are
· using lime 6
5c Spread lime periodically 6

 - 10 - `
Of the 81 farmers who had not limed, 21 (26 percent) had reported
five years earlier that they had used lime on their farms. Thus,
at least 3 out of 5 farmers in these neighborhoods had spread lime
on their farms during the years 1953 to 1960.
· I
More than half (53 percent) of the farmers spreading lime in
1958-59 had done so after having their soil tested. Compared with 4
the percentage of those who gave soil testing as a basis for the
decision to use fertilizer, this relatively high percentage is ·
quite notable. The response probably relates to the ASC policy .
of requiring a soil test in obtaining ASC support.
Most of the remaining farmers who have used lime recently, as
well as most of those who have not done so, gave various "natural"
conditions as indicators of when lime is needed. Deterioration in
the stand of grass or a feeling that it should be better, or presence
of soapstone were the principal reasons given by those who had used J -
lime recently. A poor stand of grass (especially if there is broom ,
sage in it), the presence of soapstone, etc., were the conditions .
most mentioned by the farmers who had not recently limed.
A soil test is not only the most common reason given for a de-
cision to lime, but, in combination with the possibility of getting
ASC support, it is the most effective one. While 65 percent of those
mentioning a soil test had spread lime in the two years prior to the
1960 survey, only 20 percent of those who depended on "natural"
factors had done so. Moreover, it is apparent that farmers who
rely on "natural" factors use lime infrequently. Of the 21 farmers
who reported using lime in the 1955 survey but not in the more re-
cent one, 18 had decided to use it because of the appearance of
soapstone, broom sage, "cold land", etc. By contrast, more than
half of the farmers who reported using lime in both surveys had
relied on a soil test.
The scale of farm operations as indicated by the amount of A ·
cropland farmed is important not only to whether lime is used,
but also to the conditions under which it would be used. Sixty
percent of the farmers with 25 or more acres of cropland had
spread lime on their farms compared with 27 percent of those
with smaller acreages. Moreover, among the farmers who had spread
lime those with larger cropland acreages were most likely to de—
pend on the results of soil tests (58 percent compared with A3
Although the amount of schooling of the farmer seems to be
less important than the scale of his farming operations, the con-
ditions mentioned for spreading lime depend on the farmer°s knowledge,
thus his education may indirectly affect decisions to lime. While
bb percent of the farmers who had completed less than 8 grades of
school mention the presence of soapstone as a reason to lime, this
reason is given by only 15 percent of the farmers with 8 years or
more of schooling and mentioned by none who had limed in recent

 ( — ll ~
Terracing has been recommended for many years as a means of
— soil conservation where the slope of the land is from 2 to l2 per~
cent, Since the kind of cover crop affects soil erosion, greater
importance is attached to terracing when the land is in crop ro~
~ tations than when it is in grasses, However, despite its importance
and the length of time that terracing has been recommended, relatively V
few farmers use the practice. Many feel that planting, cultivating,
{ and harvesting operations with terraces are more time consuming and
the use of machinery more difficult, Also, there are initial con~
struction costs,
According to their reports, a fifth of the farmers in these
neighborhoods had no land that might require terraces (cropland
- with more than a 2 percent slope), Of the remainder, about a
quarter were using or had used terraces on their farms (Table 5),
Table 5, — WHEN WOULD A FARMER TRY TERRACING? (Percentage Dis—
tribution of Users and Nonusers by Type of Reason Given)
Had Used Terraces Had Never Used Terraces
(30 farmers, 27 percent} (Sl farmers, 73 percent)
- Reasons or Conditions for Use Z Reasons or Conditions for Use X
, l, To control erosion or l, lf have a problem of erosion
avoid washing of land 77 or drainage and no other
satisfactory means of con~
trol 36
, 2, To avoid washing of pas~ G 2c If land isnvt KGO rolling,
Cure lend la and terraces not too costly
and timeeconsuming in farm~
ing 36
3. If ASC recommended it l0 3, No particular basis given 26
, A. Never would use terraces 2
Terracing was found to be closely associated with the amount of
cropland farmed, While only 5 percent of the farmers with less
than 25 acres of cropland had used terraces, over half of those
with larger acreages of cropland had used them, At the same time,
among farmers with 25 acres or more of cropland, those who had
terraced were farmers who were much concerned with the problem of
soil erosion. This is evident since 09 percent of the large~acreage

 = l2 - `
group who had used terraces express opinions emphasizing the problem
of soil erosion, while only 35 percent of the nonusers with the same
acreages of cropland express similar opinions. It is further note~ s —
worthy that many farmers with less than 25 acres of cropland express
concern about the problem of soil erosion, but very few have ever ,
used terraces. Of the 23 farmers with less than 25 acres of crop—
land who, according to their replies, recognized that terracing prem ‘
vents soil erosion only 3 had ever used terraces. Thus, in the ab~
sence of a large cropland acreage, concern about soil erosion does not ·
lead to terracing, nor does a large cropland acreage in the absence
of a concern for the problem of soil erosion lead to the building of
terraces. Thus, for terracing, both appropriate attitudes of the \
farmer and a "substantial" farm size (by the standards in this county)
are essential conditions.
Of additional interest is the explanation why some of the farmers
(9 in this sample) who had 25 or more acres of cropland and who recognized Q
the importance of terraces in controlling erosion had not tried them.
There are, of course, a variety of possible reasons for the failure to
use terraces, including cost, perceived inconvenience, or use of con-
touring or other alternative methods of erosion control. It seems
significant that of these nine farmers who had not tried terracing
four had had contacts with two or more professional agricultural
specialists in the county and all four are contouring. One is tempted
to think that lack of contact with agricultural specialists is the
main reason that the remaining five farmers are not using a similar
alternative, but the data do not justify a definite conclusion.
Why more of the farmers with large acreages of cropland pre—
sumably subject to erosion were not concerned about the problem of
erosion is another question to be examined. A partial answer may
be found in the degree of farmer education since the farmers with
25 or more acres of cropland agd with 8 or more years of schooling
arg more concerned with the problem of soil erosion than those with
the same acreage but less schooling. lf more of the larger operators
had more schooling, there is reason to believe that more of them
would be able to see the importance of erosion control. This again
emphasizes the stake which the programs of agricultural agencies
have in the general education of people who become farmers.
Contouring offers at least a partial control of erosion on
sloping land that is farmed. Twenty~nine percent of the farmers
who said they had sloping cropland had tried contouring (Table 6).
Nearly all who had tried contouring said that they used it as a
means of preventing washing or erosion of soil. However, only
39 percent of the nonusers gave this as a reason for contouring.
Considering all the farmers who mentioned soil erosion as

 r u lg -
(Percentage Distribution of Users and Ncnusazs by Type 0f Reason Given)
Had Used Contouring Had Never Used Contouring
V (32 farmers, 29 percent) (79 farmers, 71 percent)
‘ Reasons 0x Ccnditimns For Z Reasons or Conditions For its Z
· Its Use Use
1, T0 control erosion and pre~ lv If fieid is washing away,
vent washing BQ must ba cropped, and if it°s
laid cu? on contour 39
2. T0 central arosicn and 20 if field cn rnliing land
. ccnserva moisture 13 is Targa asmugh I2
Bc OtHer kind of response 3 Bq if convezlemc, or if
Others dp, etcu 2b
A, would neve~ farm on c0n—
tour 25
the condition for contouring, SO percent had tyiad cnntcuring and SO
percent had not. It is thus evident tN2t, by itscifq recognition
0f contcuxing as a means 0f erosion control does nat insure the
use cf ccntouringo An important additional factor is the amouni
* 0f cropland farmed. Of the 62 farmers who menxioned erosion c0w~
trol in this context, 66 percent of those favniug 25 or more acres
of cropland had tried contcuring, compared with 25 percent of fhcsa
farming smaller acreageso Cnntcuring, like tcrrmcixg, is practiced
when 2 sizable commitment to cropping is jnined wi;F an acceptawcc
of this means 05 coping witH the problem of erosion,
There were 13 farmers, however, who were imxwing 25 or more
acres 0f cropland and mentally azsociatad cgntouri ·’·. g with erosion
control, but had not tried itc Why? Although thFs question can
not be answered with complete satisfaction, TX2 cowtnctr tHai farmers
have Or have not had with representatives of zgrim;}:u:nI agencies
K seem tc have been a major frcior in the use OT nonnze of crntouriug,
While only 3 cf these_13 farmers had had contacts with two ox mor?
agricultural agenciesé, 23 of the 25 farmers who were using c2nt0ur~
ing had had such ccntaccs, It thus seems {Hat cogiacte with ng¥l~
cultural agencies helped farmevs to recognize tHe value of sonicwrirg,
and tc try it if they were farming relatively {nvge acreage:.
Agricultural Extension Service, S0?} Ccnseyvatiun Service, and
Agricultural Experiment Staticn.

 n lh - `
ln addition to the nonusers of contouring who are at least
vaguely favorable to contouring and mention conditions of one kind
or another for its use, a substantial minority said that they would
never farm on the contour under any circumstances. The 25 percent s —
(Table 6) making this statement is larger than the percent of those
rejecting any other practice in this report. lt is not clear from 4
these data whether these farmers are unalterably opposed to "them
crooked rows" or merely think that establishing contour lines for
farming purposes is not worth the trouble. Regardless, this negative
opinion is indicative of a considerable gap in the appreciation and
understanding of contouring in soil conservation.