6.1.1. Farm field characteristics

For each FMU that is selected for survey, general information about it should be collected first. This is usually done once, at the beginning of the cropping season or field campaign. A form should be designed for collecting such data, serving consistency and completeness of the data collected. Some of the data will require the attention of the farmer. It is always advisable to identify and interview the person/people who work the FMU you intend surveying. Farm characteristics that are worth recording include:

  1. Personal details of farmer: details (e.g., name, age, etc.) of the person/people who work the FMU
  2. Location: The geographic position of each FMU, preferably viewed as (multi-)polygon, must be determined using a Global Positioning System (GPS) device. Ideally, this permit the delineation of its boundary.  A single point location may sometimes provide (only a weak) alternative to a polygon registration.
  3. Crops cultivated: The crops cultivated in the FMU must be noted. In areas where intercropping occurs, multiple crops are likely cultivated in a single FMU.
  4. Cropping system: The cropping system is a characterization of how crops are managed in the field, whether as single crop or in a mix, and how in space and time. The crop choice is covered already under (3).  The system may be mono- or multicropping, and crop rotation may be used. Crops may be grown in rows, or not.  They may be grown in different plant density strategies.  Different strategies may also be in place for handling residues.  All of this characterization will normally be indicated by the farmer, especially during early stages of the season when crops are not yet in cultivation. Later in the season, the surveyor may make an educated guess; but definitely not in the early season.
  5. Historical land use: Where possible, it is important to know what the FMU has been used for in the past, say during the last 10 years. This information may be of use in analysis of historical images and improve understanding of land use dynamics in the area of interest
  6. Land tenure: ownership and land use regimes can also be valuable information. Certain forms of land rights may cause suboptimal use of the land, for instance, due to low investments.  Where this can be ascertained, this presents actionable information to policy.
  7. Land form/slope: notes about the land form and visual/instrumental assessment of slope of the FMU. This information may be needed, for example, to stratify the study area into similar regions for analysis.
  8. Accessibility: the ease or difficulty with which one can get to the FMU may be important, for instance, in cases where mechanized work is an option.

The above is not an exhaustive list of farm field characteristics. Nonetheless, covering this list in a farm survey is highly recommended.