Braito, Michael Leonhardt, Heidi Penker, Marianne Schauppenlehner-Kloyber, Elisabeth Thaler, Georg Flint, Courtney G.
Year of Publication:
FORLand-Working Paper No. 15 (2019)
While soil degradation is continuing to threaten the global agricultural production system, a common understanding of how to encourage sustainable soil management is missing. With this study, we aim to provide new insights on targeted policies that address the heterogeneity of farmers. We scrutinize the plurality of farmers' views on soil management among arable farmers in the Austrian (and European) policy context. To do so, we apply Q methodology, a method that identifies different perspectives on a topic present in a population and quantifies this subjectivity statistically. We interviewed 34 arable land farmers, who varied in their farming backgrounds. The results yielded four different viewpoints on soil management held by the interviewed farmers: two more ecocentric perspectives (Innovative Nature Participants, Pleasure Seekers) and two more anthropocentric perspectives (Traditional Producers, Profit Maximisers). Our study shows that farmers' soil management is influenced by more than economic considerations and that a mix of policy approaches is needed to reach all farmers and avoid adverse effects or ineffective strategies. We provide several suggestions for policymakers on how to complement agri-environmental schemes: appealing to human-nature relationships, offering training and experimentation services, fostering social networks, and raising the social reputation of farmers.