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Issue No. 25, Article 4/December 3, 2010

Responses to the Survey on Communication Methods Appreciated

In the July 16 issue (no. 15) of the Bulletin, I promoted a survey that Dr. Shawn Conley of the University of Wisconsin and I were conducting on communication methods. In July we mailed postcards to 47,000 soybean growers in Illinois and 10,000 in Wisconsin. We also advertised an online version of the survey. The survey was conducted in conjunction with, and sponsored by, the soybean checkoff program through the Illinois and Wisconsin Soybean Operating Boards.

Our objective was to investigate the technology that soybean growers and agronomic consultants use to find and share production and marketing information. We are very interested in how to best adapt our communication methods to increase our effectiveness at meeting your changing needs. A number of you completed the survey, and I want to thank you and share a few results.

There were 1,663 direct-mail surveys and 203 online surveys completed. The direct-mail survey indicated that 85% of soybean growers use a cell phone, 11% use a "smartphone" (cell phone with Internet capability), 70% use a computer, 57% use high-speed Internet, 56% use e-mail, and 3% use an iPod (Table 1). In contrast, all growers that responded to the online survey use a cell phone (98%), a computer (100%), e-mail (99%), and high-speed Internet (97%) with greater frequency than television (83%), radio (88%), yield monitors (58%) and GPS guidance (58%). Moreover, they used a smartphone at nearly three times the frequency (31%) of growers who responded to the direct-mail survey. Print material was rated as the most important method of communication for growers in all operation sizes; however, the value of the Internet was equally high for growers with the largest operations. Extension was valued as an important information source, but deemed less important than seed and crop input dealers (Table 2, showing direct-mail responses only).

Table 1. Various technologies reported (in a July 2010 direct-mail survey) to be used by Illinois and Wisconsin soybean growers.

Technology used

% of growers by farm size (acres of soybean)

Total

No. of growers

Chi-square

1-500

501-1,000

1,001-1,500

1,501-2,000

>2,000

Television

83

82

84

74

90

83

1,547

0.6692

Radio

80

81

83

83

95

80

1,547

0.4407

Fax machine

28

49

59

78

90

36

1,547

<0.0001

Cell phone

81

94

100

96

95

85

1,547

<0.0001

Cell phone w/ Internet

9

14

22

35

45

12

1,547

<0.0001

Computer

65

81

84

91

90

70

1,547

<0.0001

Dial-up Internet

10

12

1.5

0.4

0.3

11

1,543

0.0067

High-speed Internet

56

71

78

83

85

57

1,547

<0.0001

E-mail

50

70

74

83

75

56

1,547

<0.0001

iPod

2.4

5

7.3

0

20

3.4

1,547

<0.0001

Yield monitor

36

78

87

96

85

48

1,547

<0.0001

GPS guidance

26

64

88

83

90

38

1,546

<0.0001

Total respondents

72

21

4

2

1

-

1,551

-

 

Table 2. Importance of various sources of information reported (in a July 2010 direct-mail survey) by Illinois and Wisconsin soybean growers.

Information source

Rating by farm size (acres of soybean)

No. of responses

1-500

501-1,000

1,001-1,500

1,501-2,000

>2,000

University Extension

2.1

2.0

2.1

2.2

2.2

1,503

Crop input manufacturers

2.4

2.3

2.3

2.3

2.0

1,475

Your crop scout

2.3

2.1

2.1

2.2

1.8

1,381

Your seed and crop input dealer

1.8

1.7

1.7

1.8

1.7

1,504

State or local newspapers

2.6

2.9

3.0

3.0

3.0

1,482

Local radio stations

2.8

3.1

3.2

3.6

3.1

1,480

Trade magazines

2.4

2.5

2.7

2.5

2.3

1,499

LSD = 0.05

0.10

0.18

0.38

0.66

0.7

-

Respondents rated information sources on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = very important; 5 = not important).

While Extension is commonly rated below crop and input suppliers as an information source, one can hypothesize that such a rating is not necessarily a bad thing; rather, it just confirms some earlier research conclusions. Licht and Martin (2007) surveyed corn and soybean growers in Iowa and found that growers didn't look to Extension for information; they looked to Extension instead for help in evaluating the information they already received from other sources. These findings help us understand that to remain relevant to our changing clientele, we need to continue steadfastly developing high-quality materials available on the Internet, consider producing smartphone-accessible materials, and be aware of the rise in the use of social media.

A final note to those of you who completed the online survey: The survey was anonymous, but we offered more information to growers if they would send one of us an e-mail request. A number of you told us in the comments section that you would like more information, but we have no way of knowing who you are, so we were unable to respond to your requests if you did not follow up with the e-mail message.

Again, we sincerely thank those of you who took time to complete the survey.--Vince M. Davis and Shawn P. Conley

Reference

Licht, M.A.R., and R.A. Martin. 2007. "Communication Channel Preferences of Corn and Soybean Producers." Journal of Extension, Vol. 45, No. 6, Article 6RIB2. Available online at www.joe.org/joe/2007december/rb2.php.

Author:
Vince Davis

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