Land-Use Change Decisions: Motivations in the Eastern Dakotas Back »

There has been moderate to extensive land use conversion activity in the Western Corn Belt, where corn and soybeans are the dominant cropland use. To understand motivations of land use change from producers’ perspective, a survey on land operators’ views was carried out in east river South Dakota and North Dakota in spring 2015 (Wang et al., 2017). The motivators for land use choice from the producers’ perspective were ranked in Figure 1, which showed the average rating of the 1026 respondents.

Motivational Factors

Depending on the impact of the issue being asked, there are generally three different levels of farmers’ responses to these issues: 1) low impact (value = 1); 2) medium impact (value = 2), and 3) high impact (value = 3).

Figure 1. Ranking of motivators for land use change.


 

Prices and Yields

Economic returns directly affect land use decisions (Rashford et al., 2010). Not surprisingly, among all motivators listed, crop prices, input market prices and improved crop yields were regarded by producers as the three most important influences on land use decisions (Figure 1).

Table 1 indicates that farm location, operation size, ownership status and land slope had strong influences on several declared motives for land use change (Table 1).  For producers located further north and with more percentage of land rented, crop prices and input prices had higher impact on their land use decisions. Older producers and producers with steeper sloped* farms, on the contrary, were less likely to be motivated by the price factors to make land use change decisions. When larger farm sizes, producers were more likely to view improved crop yields as a key determinant of land use decisions.

Table 1. Factors that affect Land Use Decision Motivators.

Variables Further North Further West Steeper Slope Larger farm size More land rented Older age
Improving wildlife habitat
 
+
       
Labor availability
+
   
+
   
Drought-tolerant seed
-
+
       
Changing climate patterns
+
 
-
     
Crop
insurance policy
   
-
+
   
Pest management practices  
-
 
+
   
Efficient cropping equipment
+
   
+
   
Changing
input prices
+
     
+
-
Improved
crop yields
     
+
   
Changing
crop prices
+
 
-
 
+
-

Note: “+” means statistically significant positive effect on the ten listed land use motivators, while “-” stands for statistically significant negative effect. 
 

Cropping equipment, pest management, crop insurance policy, and climate patterns

Efficient crop equipment was ranked as the 4th most important motivators (Figure 1), followed after prices and yields. For farms located further north and of a larger size, the role of efficient equipment became more pronounced (Table 1).

Pest management was more concerned by farms of a larger size when making land use decisions. Similar to Meehan et al. (2015), who found positive relationship between pest abundance and landscape simplicity, we also found pest management was more of a concern when moving towards the east, where more land is covered by harvested cropland (Wang et al., 2017).

Table 1 also indicated the role of crop insurance policy was more likely a strong motivator for farms of larger size when making land use change decisions. However, crop insurance policy was generally not a key factor to consider for farms on steeper slopes.  For farms located further north, changing climate patterns means warmer growing environment for corn, thus were viewed as more influential on land use change. For farms on steeper slopes, however, changing climate patterns was less likely to impact land use change decisions.

Wildlife habitat, labor availability and drought-tolerant seed

Wildlife habitat, labor availability and drought-tolerant seed received least attention when making land use decisions (Figure 1). For producers located further west where more land is under grass, improving wildlife habitat was more likely to be considered as an important motivator for land use decisions, as indicated by Table 1.

For farms located further north and of larger sizes, labor availability was more likely to be conceived as a constraint of land use change. In addition, the importance of drought tolerant seed became more apparent when moving to the west and south, where either lower average precipitation or higher rates of evapotranspiration justified the need for it.

The Bottom Line

Overall, our survey results found that prices was most important, while wildlife habit improvement was least important motivator for land use change (Wang et al., 2017). It is also worthwhile to mention that spatial direction variables and farm characteristics provide reasonable explanations of the varied importance of these land use change motivators.

References:

  • Rashford, B.S., Walker, J.A., Bastian, C.T., 2010. Economics of grassland conversion to cropland in the Prairie Pothole region. Conservation Biology 25(2), 276-284.
  • Wang, T., M. Luri, L. Janssen, D. Hennessy, H. Feng, M. Wimberly and G. Arora. 2017.  “Determinants of Motives for Land Use Decisions at the Margins of the Corn Belt” Ecological Economics. 134: 227-237.

*Steeper slope means higher percentage of farm land with slopes greater than 3 degree.

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