Crop production in Western Canada relies heavily on the use of inputs. They include land, machinery, buildings, interest and labor as well as pesticides, fertilizer and seed. The latter three garner the most attention because their costs have risen much more rapidly than grain prices. From 1992 to 2002, crop values increased by 11%, but pesticide, fertilizer and seed costs rose by 28-65% (Statistics Canada, 2004). For this reason, farmers often question whether they can reduce these inputs without incurring yield losses that exceed cost savings.
With this in mind, a group of AAFC agronomists designed an experiment to examine the role of inputs in our cropping systems. It was unreasonable to look at all possible input combinations with all crops. We decided that we would try to determine if inputs had the same impact in an input system that targeted high yield as in an input package that targeted low yield [the full and empty input concept]. It was also important to examine if input impacts differed for different crops, or if inputs would have cumulative effects over time. We also felt it was important to determine if the importance of various inputs varied across soil and climatic zones, and ensure that results could be broadly applied. The objectives of the study were: To determine if some crops were better candidates for input cuts than others: To determiner which inputs to target if cuts are made: Assess whether use of one input affects responses to others: To generate a preliminary understanding of potential cumulative effects of input cuts over time.
Download the PDF file for the full paper from the Agronomy Update 2008 conference proceedings