What drives farmers to increase soil organic matter? Insights from the Netherlands

R. Hijbeek*, A.A. Pronk, M.K. van Ittersum, H.F.M. ten Berge, J. Bijttebier, A. Verhagen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Soil organic matter (SOM) is an important resource base for arable farming. For policies on SOM to be effective, insight is needed on why and under which conditions farmers are willing to increase SOM content. This study used the theory of planned behaviour to analyse what prevents or encourages Dutch farmers to increase the SOM content of their fields. In an online survey, 435 arable farmers were asked questions to understand their attitude (perceived benefits), subjective norm (social pressure) and perceived behavioural control (anticipated impediments and obstacles) related to management of SOM. Farmers’ answers were related to their intention to increase SOM content, use of organic materials and perceived increase in SOM content. Our results showed that Dutch farmers are well aware of the possible benefits of SOM content for crop productivity. Farmers’ attitude, subjective norm and perceived decrease in SOM content were significantly related to their intention to increase SOM content. In our farm survey, this intention was very strong: 90% of the farmers stated a high or very high intention to increase the SOM content of their fields. A higher intention to increase SOM content was correlated with the use of organic materials as expressed as total and effective C (P = 0.003 and P = 0.002, respectively), but this did not lead to a perceived increase in SOM content. From a farmer's point of view, this indicates that increasing SOM content is to a large degree beyond their direct influence. The Dutch Manure and Fertiliser Act, costs of organic inputs and the need to cultivate profitable crops (such as potatoes or sugar beet) were indicated as important impeding factors for increasing SOM content.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-100
JournalSoil Use and Management
Volume34
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018

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Keywords

  • farmers’ behaviour
  • farmers’ intentions
  • organic materials
  • soil conservation
  • soil management
  • soil organic matter
  • theory of planned behaviour

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