The Importance Of Conservation Agriculture

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Amid increased competition for land, climate change, and a rapidly growing population, Sustainable Intensification of agriculture is a key policy agenda for governments and private corporations alike (Garnett et al., 2013). One way of improving yield while preserving arable land and the wider ecosystem is using Conservation Agriculture (CA). CA encompasses a number of different conservation farming practices, but it is generally accepted that farming practices can be qualified as such if they embrace three core principles: 1) no ploughing / tillage, 2) rotation of crops along the year, and 3) a permanent natural soil cover (FAO, 2001). Moving to CA typically requires short term investments (e.g. training, new machineries) and delivers medium…show more content…
Indeed, in their meta-analysis of relevant studies, Knowler & Bradshaw (2007) identified more than 46 explanatory variables, of various significance. It is fair to say though, that despite the seemingly exhaustiveness of this, most of the research so far has focused on economical, demographic or biophysical (e.g. type of soil, erosion rate) variables. In the more recent years, alongside progress and visibility of behavioural sciences, contextual variables are seen as increasingly relevant, although research is still in its infancy. Nonetheless, there are a already a few salient examples of how such contextual or subjective factors seem to explain adoption. First, it has been demonstrated that CA adoption is correlated with proximity of other farmers having adopted the practice (D’Emden et al., 2006; Ruttan, 1996), underlying the importance of social norms. Additionally, the perception of likelihood of extreme weather event is recognised to impact such decision (Nyanga et al., 2011). Finally, farmers are more likely to engage with conservation practice that will improve the farm tidiness and overall aesthetics (Ryan, Erickson & De Young, 2002), the social stigma of having an untidy farm still playing a role (Coughenour & Chamala, 2000) - something likely to happen with conservation practices due to the required permanent soil cover and no ploughing principle. There are many more…show more content…
Indeed, CA as a practice would have an impact of different sign on multiple overarching farmers’ goals. For example, while CA can be seen as a mean to reduce erosion, and satisfy farmers’ preferences for land preservation, it also implies a no ploughing principle, that would lead to a ‘messy’ farm and negatively impact social acceptance (assuming the current situation where most farmers in Europe are not using CA practices). Similarly, a no-tillage principle would allow increased free time but potentially impact farmers sense of connectedness (e.g. not being able to use CB radio with others on the cabin, Pannell et al., 2006). The bottom line is CA promotion effort should focus on aspects that does not hinder some of the farmers’ goals, or if not possible at least pinpoint some where there is a substitutability of other means to this goal. By all means (no pun intended) the above is a rough sketch of the situation, and I suspect further research in this area would be beneficial to develop an appropriate framing of the
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