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Motivations, risk perceptions and adoption of conservation practices by farmers

By Romy Greiner, Louisa Patterson and Owen Miller

Abstract

Society's expectations of farmers in relation to their environmental performance are ever increasing, in general terms and in response to regional challenges. One tool for achieving environmental improvements in agriculture is the design and promotion of region-specific 'best management practices' (BMPs). BMPs are conservation practices aimed at reducing diffuse source pollution from agricultural lands and thus improving end-of-catchment water quality. A suite of grazing BMPs was developed for the Burdekin River catchment in Australia, which drains into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. BMPs were developed in a consultative fashion but without explicit consideration of key factors that influence adoption, in particular farmers' goals and risk perceptions. This paper utilises the data from a survey of 94 graziers in the Burdekin River catchment to explore whether and to what extent motivations and risk perceptions influence the adoption of BMPs. The results demonstrate clear correlations between both motivations, and risk attitudes, and the adoption of BMPs. In particular, strong conservation and lifestyle motivation translates into intrinsic motivation for adoption of conservation practices, while option values prevent strongly economically/financially motivated farmers from adopting in the absence of external incentives. We conclude that a sound understanding of farmers' motivations and risk attitudes is required--in a regional, industry and environmental context--to tailor public investments aimed at providing relevant improvements in the environmental performance of agriculture.Farmers Conservation Agriculture Adoption Water quality Grazing Great Barrier Reef Risk perceptions Risk management Motivations Empirical research Correlations Factor analysis

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