Agricultural survey/Types/How to plan/Tools

The agricultural survey is a tool that allows obtaining reliable and updated information on the agricultural sector of a country, such as areas, production and crop yield, cereals, livestock, exploitation systems and more, thus helping to make correct decisions. At national and international level.

In this article we have compiled what it consists of, what its types are and how they are made.

What is an agricultural survey?

An agricultural survey is a survey designed to obtain timely and reliable basic data for the agricultural sector. Generally, it is carried out periodically (either annually or seasonally), on a large scale and through agricultural probability sampling . 

Agricultural surveys are the source of much of the information needed for this sector, such as crop production estimates, livestock inventories, and basic social and economic data.

The application of surveys is, therefore, a fundamental step for the information system of the agricultural industry. 

The results obtained from agricultural surveys are used to obtain variables such as: 

  • Cultivation surfaces (prepared, planted and harvested). 
  • Crop yields (expected and achieved).
  • Crop production.
  • Cattle inventories.
  • Cereal stocks
  • Exploitation systems
  • Production costs
  • Operating expenses
  • Social and economic characteristics of agricultural holdings. 

Types of agricultural surveys

Agricultural surveys can be classified into two types: censuses and sample surveys . We will describe each one below.

Agricultural census 

The agricultural census is a survey in which the value of each variable for the survey area is obtained from the values ​​of the variable in all the reporting units, which are usually farms. Agricultural censuses have the objective of generating a detailed classification of the agrarian structure and organization of a specific region, for example, a country.

Agricultural survey by sample

An agricultural sample survey is a survey in which the inference procedure for estimating each survey variable for the total area of ​​the survey is based on the values ​​of the variable obtained from a sample of reporting units. The questionnaires are filled out for each of the reporting units. 

An agricultural sample survey is usually carried out to measure the performance of the agricultural structure . This type of survey classifies into two types according to the sampling method used:

  • Agricultural survey by probability sampling. It is a survey based on probabilistic sampling and estimation methods, through which the statistical precision of the estimates can be established.
  • Agricultural survey by non-probabilistic or subjective sampling. It is a survey carried out by non-probability sampling to obtain the estimates of the variables, and is generally used when statistically exact data are not needed or when resources are limited.

How to plan an agricultural survey?

According to FAO, the most important steps in conducting an agricultural survey program are:

1. Investigation of available agricultural data

To carry out an effective agricultural survey, it is necessary to previously investigate the estimates that have been made so far and the state of knowledge about key characteristics of the agricultural sector, such as:

  • Total production of the most important agricultural products, cultivated areas and inventories of livestock and poultry.
  • The number and geographic distribution of agricultural holdings.
  • The geographical distribution of crops and livestock.

2. Determination of the objectives and variables of the survey

The most important point in planning an agricultural survey is to establish the objectives of the survey, which must be specific, clear and unambiguous , in addition to including the required level of precision of the data, since these will directly impact the overall design of the poll.

When determining the objectives, the following points should be evaluated:

  • ¿ What is the purpose of agricultural survey?
  • What is meant by an agricultural holding? 
  • What agricultural variables will be investigated?
  • How often will agricultural variables be evaluated?
  • What are the required levels of precision?
  • At what level will the data be addressed (country, region, state, etc.?

The determination of the variables to be studied and the level of precision required must be clearly established from the beginning of the planning of the survey, this in order to design the sampling, the questionnaire and the data collection procedures .

3. Definition of the geographical scope

It is necessary to define the geographic scope that the agricultural survey will address and on which the estimates of the variables of interest will be made, which may consist of the entire country, state, city or geographic location of the territory.

In this step, aspects such as the information unit of a variable are also determined, which can be an exploitation or a section of the geographical scope of the survey.

Important terms for an agricultural survey

To carry out an agricultural survey it is necessary to precisely define some common terms used to describe the agricultural sector in order to make their use practical when collecting and analyzing the information. 

For example, some of the most common terms in the agricultural sector are:

Agrobusiness operation

An agricultural holding, commonly known as a farm, is a unit of agricultural production that includes livestock and land used in agricultural production, regardless of its size, legal form or title.

Farm plot

A farm parcel is any piece of land that is surrounded by other lands, waters, roads, forests, etc. and that they are not part of the farm. A parcel can be made up of one or more fields that are adjacent to each other.


A field is a piece of land on a parcel separated from the rest of the parcel by easily identifiable demarcation lines, such as paths, fences or hedges.

Tools for conducting an agricultural survey

The agricultural survey is a key tool for understanding the agricultural sector, and currently there are tools such as an App for surveys with geolocation systems and various functions that facilitate obtaining data in the field in a systematic way and without the need for an internet connection. .

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