Fertile ground, complex matter: Plurality of farmers’ attitudes towards green waste application as sustainable soil management

Maaike Happel*, Francesco Orsi, Thomas Hartmann, Martha Bakker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The adoption of sustainable soil management practices such as the use of green waste from road-side management and nature reserves is thwarted in practice by hesitance on the side of farmers. To foster the use of these practices, it is crucial to understand farmers’ decision perspectives and attitudes towards them. Using Q-methodology, the perspectives of 12 dairy and arable farmers in The Netherlands were analysed. It was studied which barriers farmers perceive for green waste application (GWA), and whether perceptions of barriers are related to particular rationalities on the position of farmers within society. In Q-sorts and semistructured interviews, farmers ranked their degree of agreement on 41 statements about GWA, nutrient policy information, general beliefs on soil and farm management and circular agriculture, inspired by a cultural theory framework. Six decision perspectives were identified, globally agreeing on the benefits of GWA but challenged by rapidly changing regulations regarding nutrient management. Plurality in decision perspectives captured the need for trusted information, alongside differing views on responsibility and views on sustainable agriculture. Combining Q-methodology with cultural theory confirmed the need to include various notions of trust, power and responsibility in understanding complex decision-making perspectives within more sustainable soil management practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)509-541
JournalSociologia Ruralis
Issue number3
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • agriculture
  • cultural theory
  • decision-making behaviour
  • green waste application
  • Q-method
  • sustainable soil management


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