Nav: Home

What makes farmers try new practices?

March 14, 2017

URBANA, Ill. - Change is never easy. But when it comes to adopting new agricultural practices, some farmers are easier to convince than others.

A group of researchers at the University of Illinois wanted to know which farmers are most likely to adopt multifunctional perennial cropping systems--trees, shrubs, or grasses that simultaneously benefit the environment and generate high-value products that can be harvested for a profit.

"We surveyed farmers in the Upper Sangamon River Watershed in Illinois to learn their attitudes about growing MPCs on marginal land. We then looked at their demographic data to classify people into different categories related to their adoption potential," says University of Illinois agroecologist Sarah Taylor Lovell.

Using statistical clustering techniques, the team discovered that survey respondents fell into six categories. The "educated networkers" and "young innovators" were most likely to adopt MPCs. On the other end of the spectrum, survey respondents classified as "money motivated" and "hands-off" were least likely to adopt the new cropping systems.

The goal of categorizing farmers was to tailor strategies for each group, given their general attitudes. "If they're very unlikely to adopt at all, we probably wouldn't spend a lot of time worrying about those groups," Lovell explains.

However, Lovell thinks some low-likelihood adopters could be swayed. "One of the groups--the one we called "money motivated"--was really connected with GPS in their yield monitoring, so we thought we could target that. We could review high-resolution maps of their farms to point out the areas that are unproductive for corn and soybeans. We'd try to make the case that alternative perennial systems could bring in profits," Lovell says.

High-likelihood adopters were motivated by environmental concerns, and were especially interested in converting marginal land to bioenergy crop, hay, or nut production systems. "Farmers were probably most familiar with bioenergy grasses and hay," Lovell explains. But it was important to them that an existing market was in place for MPCs products.

Another major factor was land tenancy. Considering that most MPC crops don't mature for years after planting, rental contracts would need to account for the long-term investment.

"The person leasing the land might be really interested in agroforestry or perennial cropping systems," Lovell says. "The lease arrangement has to be long enough that the farmer will get back their investment in that period. For example, some of the nut crops take a long time to mature. But if you integrate some of the fruit shrubs, they'll become productive in maybe 3-4 years. You could get an earlier return on investment in those cases."

Lovell's graduate students -- housed in the crop sciences department at U of I -- are now following up with several of the farmers who were interested in MPCs and offering custom designs to establish the new cropping systems on their land.

"That was part of the overall goal for this study. We wondered if the barrier to adoption is a lack of information about design options and the economic potential," Lovell says. "If we overcome that barrier by developing good planting plans, projecting the market economics, and providing them with that information, will that help them implement the change?"
-end-
Stay tuned.

The article, "Identifying barriers and motivators for adoption of multifunctional perennial cropping systems by landowners in the Upper Sangamon River Watershed, Illinois," is published in Agroforestry Systems. Lead author Chloe Mattia and co-author Adam Davis are also in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I. Funding was provided by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

Related Agricultural Practices Articles:

Significant potential demonstrated by digital agricultural advice
2019 Economics Nobel Laureate co-publishes paper demonstrating the potential for digital agricultural advice to 'sustainably' raise 'agricultural productivity' at low cost for 2 billion smallholder farming families.
Sustaining roads with grape and agricultural waste
The US spends $5 billion a year to repair damages to road infrastructure from winter snow and ice control operations and the use of traditional deicers.
New report says accelerating global agricultural productivity growth is critical
The 2019 Global Agricultural Productivity Report, released today by Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, shows agricultural productivity growth -- increasing output of crops and livestock with existing or fewer inputs -- is growing globally at an average annual rate of 1.63%.
The benefits of updating agricultural drainage infrastructure
The massive underground infrastructure that allows farmers to cultivate crops on much of the world's most productive land has outlived its design life and should be updated, according to a new study.
The next agricultural revolution is here
By using modern gene-editing technologies to learn key insights about past agricultural revolutions, two plant scientists are suggesting that the next agricultural revolution could be at hand.
Stop the exploitation of migrant agricultural workers across Italy
Writing in The BMJ today, Dr Claudia Marotta and colleagues say more than 1,500 agricultural workers have died as a result of their work over the past six years, while others have been killed by the so-called 'Caporali' who are modern slave masters.
New mechanism of action found for agricultural pesticide fludioxonil
A fungicide commonly used by the agricultural industry to protect grains, fruit and vegetables from mold damage seems to kill fungi by a previously uncharacterized mechanism that delivers a metabolic shock to cells, new research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison finds.
Strontium isotope maps are disturbed by agricultural lime
Strontium isotopes are frequently used in archaeological studies to establish the provenance and migration history of prehistoric people and artifacts.
Gypsum as an agricultural product
Gypsum, a source of calcium and sulfur, can benefit crops and soils.
Agricultural waste drives us closer to greener transport
Composite materials made from agricultural waste could be used to produce sustainable, lightweight and low-cost applications in the automotive and marine industries.
More Agricultural Practices News and Agricultural Practices Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 3: Shared Immunity
More than a million people have caught Covid-19, and tens of thousands have died. But thousands more have survived and recovered. A week or so ago (aka, what feels like ten years in corona time) producer Molly Webster learned that many of those survivors possess a kind of superpower: antibodies trained to fight the virus. Not only that, they might be able to pass this power on to the people who are sick with corona, and still in the fight. Today we have the story of an experimental treatment that's popping up all over the country: convalescent plasma transfusion, a century-old procedure that some say may become one of our best weapons against this devastating, new disease.   If you have recovered from Covid-19 and want to donate plasma, national and local donation registries are gearing up to collect blood.  To sign up with the American Red Cross, a national organization that works in local communities, head here.  To find out more about the The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which we spoke about in our episode, including information on clinical trials or plasma donation projects in your community, go here.  And if you are in the greater New York City area, and want to donate convalescent plasma, head over to the New York Blood Center to sign up. Or, register with specific NYC hospitals here.   If you are sick with Covid-19, and are interested in participating in a clinical trial, or are looking for a plasma donor match, check in with your local hospital, university, or blood center for more; you can also find more information on trials at The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. And lastly, Tatiana Prowell's tweet that tipped us off is here. This episode was reported by Molly Webster and produced by Pat Walters. Special thanks to Drs. Evan Bloch and Tim Byun, as well as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.