* Principal Investigator:Anne Heinze Silvis, Maria B. Villamil
An important factor for the successful introduction of energy crops is the social acceptance of such crops, which present a radical change from current cropping systems. Objectives * Identify the information Illinois growers’ need as they consider an alternative crop such as miscanthus * Identify characteristics of potential miscanthus adopters * Outline best methods of providing information to potential growers Materials and Methods Surveys and focus groups targeted farming populations from Northern, Central, and Southern regions of the state to evidence regional differences. Surveys were distributed with the invaluable help of the Northwest Illinois Ag Coalition (NIAC), the Illinois Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the University of Illinois Extension, and the Illinois Farm Bureau. Focus groups were conducted in Winnebago, Sangamon, and Monroe counties, as representative of the Northern, Central, and Southern regions respectively. Collected data was analyzed using factor analysis, multivariate ANOVA, and categorical data analysis in SAS 9.1 and SPSS 14.0.
The first section of the survey used a Likert-type scale with 30 items to explore the information needs of farmers if they were to consider the adoption of an energy crop such as miscanthus. Four main areas of interest were identified:
- Agronomy & Markets
- Information about harvesting and storage, existing markets, market demand data, market prices, specific production practices, equipment needs to grow and harvest, soil fertility requirements, availability of material to plant (rhizomes), and information about potential pests and diseases.
- Environmental Services
- Effects on water quality and soil quality (including soil organic matter), improve national energy security, reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and nitrogen (N) runoff, producing a visually attractive crop.
- Concerns & Potential Problems
- Concern about miscanthus becoming a weed, experience growing miscanthus in Illinois or the Midwest region, changing operation’s current rotation, unfamiliar with growing a perennial crop, existence of long-term contract to grow miscanthus and crop insurance.
- Inputs Reduction
- The opportunity to reduce inputs of fertilizer, pesticides and fuel in producing a crop, and to reduce labor and wear and tear on equipment.
The relative importance of these information components vary among the three Illinois regions surveyed (North, Central, and South):
- Information on Agronomy & Markets is of primary importance for all the regions and is particularly so for Northern and Central Illinois farmers.
- Producers from Central Illinois are very interested in the many Environmental Services that a crop such as miscanthus may provide.
- Farmers from Central and Southern Illinois place significantly more emphasis on gaining information on the possibility of reducing inputs.
- Concerns & Potential Problems should be addressed throughout the State.
Regional Demographic Differences:
In the following list, ‘ns’ indicates lack of statistical differences.
- Age of farm operator: 55.6 years (ns)
- Years farming full-time: North & Central (28-29) > South (17)
- Years farming part-time: North & Central (5) < South (8)
- Total years of farming:~33 years (ns)
- Acres farmed:~900 acres on average (ns)
- Acres owned: ~350 (ns)
- Percentage owned: North (60%) & South (50%) > Central (40%)
- Number of activities: North & South > Central (less than 2)
- Partnership: North & South > Central
- Importance of neighbors’ opinions: ns
- Importance of orderly rows: ns
For the present study they were defined as those farmers who:
- Are willing to allocate some acreage to miscanthus within the next five production years
- Are able to leave the crop in the field for at least 10 years, and
- Are able to afford delayed economic returns.
- About 30% of the respondents were identified as potential adopters with the highest proportion in the Northern region.
- Potential adopters vs non-adopters:
- Non-adopters are less aware of the possibility of receiving carbon credits
- Regarding information needs, non-adopters emphasize the concerns & potential problems of introducing miscanthus in their operations
- No demographic differences
- On average, potential adopters will allocate 30 acres for the first season, and 120 acres during the first five years
- Majority of potential adopters will use miscanthus or other energy crop to supplement current income or as a partial replacement of their current acreage.