Doctoral Dissertations


Jufu Chen

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Agricultural Economics

Major Professor

Frank O. Leuthold

Committee Members

Burton C. English, S. Darrell Mundy, Milton Russel


Soil erosion is an old and new enemy to agriculture and environment in the United States. Costs of soil erosion include the loss of agricultural productivity and the environmental damage. The application of soil conservation measures on cropland to reduce soil erosion in order to maintain agricultural production and to protect environment have been main tasks for both farm operators and public agencies. Increased public awareness about environmental protection and concerns of sustainable agricultural growth have pushed policy-makers to solve soil, erosion problems by creating major national conservation programs to assistant farmers in adopting conservation practices.

The key point in soil erosion control is the adoption of soil conservation practices by thousands of individual farm operators. It is essential for policy-makers to have a comprehensive understanding of farm-level conservation behavior so that the most cost effective conservation programs can be implemented. Conservation programs in the U.S. in the 1980's were concentrated on "subsidies to buy conservation" (Young and Osbom, 1992). The success of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), that removed millions of acres of cropland from production is the most dramatic example. The recent 1995 Farm Bill allowed farmers to extend this program for another seven years. In addition, program participants are also allowed to modify their conservation practices if they can demonstrate the modification can provide greater erosion control. How to guide farmers to use soil conservation measures on cropland planted to row crops is a big task for the policy-makers and concerns environmentalists. However, the understanding of farm-level conservation behavior is weak (Lockeretz, 1990). More research needs to be done on farm-level conservation behavior.

The objective of this study was to identify and investigate the factors that affect the use of conservation practices in West Tennessee that is a region of major row crop production and major soil erosion. The household production theory was introduced to describes the use of soil conservation practices by farmers. The conceptual model of decision process of soil conservation was constructed and investigated by regression analysis. Hypotheses in the study were tested through regression analysis. Ordinary least square regressions and logit regressions were used to analyze the factors and affects on both the perception of soil erosion problem and the use of conservation practices. These analyses focused on 1) factors affecting perception of soil erosion rate, and 2) factors affecting the numbers of 13 selected conservation practices used by farmers. Logit regressions were also used to analyze the use of 13 individual conservation practices.

The results of the study showed that both economic and non-economic factors played important roles in the use of conservation practices. Economic factors played a major role towards profit maximization. Personal and sociological factors tended to play important roles towards utility maximization. Among the non-economic factors, attitude variables, personal values, beliefs, neighborhood pressure and social obligation variables played essential roles in both perception of soil erosion and the use of soil conservation practices. Institutional and communication factors, such as information sources, educational program and participating conservation programs, provided financial and technical supports for improving the perception of soil erosion problems and the use of soil conservation practices. Resource factors were physical conditions for farmers to use different types of conservation practices.

The results of the study indicated that farmers' economic feasibility and other circumstances permit them to use different types of conservation measures. The various federal conservation programs are important in providing economic incentives and options in soil erosion control. The major conclusion was that economic incentives and feasibility were important factors for farmers to adopt conservation practice. Personal factors and sociological factors determined attitudes, beliefs towards soil conservation. Information sources, educational programs and other technical supports were also important in increasing knowledge and changing farmers' attitudes toward conservation and the use of conservation practices.

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