Aarhus University Seal

Information is not enough – motivation is also necessary

Insight into farmer behavior, information about local conditions, research-based knowledge and appropriate policies must come together for successful implementation of conservation drainage and other landscape scale measures to reduce nutrient losses.

[Translate to English:] Det er vigtigt at inddrage lokale kræfter for at øge motiveringen til implementering af virkemidler i landskabet. Foto: Janne Hansen

Problem: Excess nitrogen and phosphorous can end up in the aquatic environment despite the use of one or more in-field conservation measures.

Solution: Additional approved edge-of-field measures may be needed to meet water quality goals. Soon, Danish farmers will be able to choose from a number of approved off-field measures to reduce the loss of nutrients. Farmers will provide the land, while the society will cover the economic costs.

While the above-mentioned solution may appear simple to implement this is not necessarily the case. A number of edge-of-field measures are already available, and new ones are currently being investigated. However, implementing these measures still faces some challenges. One of these challenges is the human component, such as the element of decision-making and public support for these schemes. 

How do we ensure support from farmers, advisors, environmentalists and citizens in general? How do we help stakeholders appreciate the benefits of measures such as reestablished wetlands, intelligent buffer zones, increased forest areas, constructed wetlands or paludiculture including harvest of wetland crops as nutrient conservation and environmental protection measures?

Drivers for implementation of landscape scale measures was one of the topics addressed at an international workshop on landscape filters arranged by the Department of Agroecology and DCA – National Centre for Food and Agriculture, Aarhus University, held in Slagelse on April 20, 2017. Speakers from Denmark and the USA discussed their knowledge and experience with farmer motivation to facilitate the implementation of new landscape measures. 

Local conditions must be considered

At the workshop Research Scientist Jeppe Kjaersgaard from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, USA, shared his experience with on-farm initiatives and measures for the purpose of conserving nutrient, soil and water resources in the US Midwest. 

- There is no silver bullet. No practice will work everywhere, all the time, he pointed out. Based on previous experience he outlined ways in which to ensure well-functioning implementation. 

- First, you must look at different scenarios and estimate their costs. Next, you must identify hotspots – the most urgent areas – and consider which measures to apply in the different areas and what the expected outcome is, he explained.

However, scientific knowledge is not necessarily enough to convince the stakeholders involved in the process.

- It is important to recognise local knowledge and place local stakeholders in the driver’s seat. However, you also need to realize that one size does not fit all and that too much paperwork and bureaucracy reduces motivation. On the other hand, cost sharing can be a good motivator, Jeppe Kjaersgaard explained. 

Another factor to consider is that the path to the goal may be smoother if it is paved with standard practices that must be followed for design, expected benefits and so on. These should be flexible enough to accommodate local conditions and prepared with technical assistance from advisors, scientists, NGO’s and authorities.   

Involve the farmer

Professor Tommy Dalgaard and PhD student Morten Graversgaard from the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University have examined issues that motivate farmers and other stakeholders – and they agree with Jeppe Kjaersgaard.

- Landscape scale measures are necessary in order to reach our national goals, and it is essential to involve farmers in the implementation of these measures, Tommy Dalgaard stated at the workshop, based on knowledge and experience from the projects Buffertech and dNmark.

Tommy Dalgaard and Morten Graversgaard have examined how to involve farmers and other stakeholders when it comes to improving the ecological status of the aquatic environment.  

- You can map the landscape, but it is equally important to map farmers’ perceptions – whether they perceive the measures as being too expensive, troublesome or bureaucratic, Tommy Dalgaard said. 

Farmers can be motivated if they realize that wetlands and other landscape measures can have several functions. In addition to removing nitrogen and phosphorus, landscape measures can increase biodiversity, be recreational areas to the benefit of the farmer, tourists or the public in general, and reduce flooding risks.

The process will be easier if you are systematic, do things in the right order and take farmers’ behavior, wishes and needs into consideration. Tommy Dalgaard outlined the following eight-step plan for implementing landscape scale measures:

Prior to meeting the farmer:

1.      Model the risk of nitrogen and phosphorus losses

2.      Map nature values

3.      Map suitable landscape measure locations

4.      Prepare maps to present to the farmers

Joint steps with the farmers:

5.      Organise meetings with each farmer in the catchment area to examine their ideas, values, motivation and knowledge of their own local areas

6.      Present the maps

7.      Summarise information about the farm and propose a forward strategy 

8.      Evaluate responses from the farmers in the catchment area and establish farmer groups to prepare a collective strategy that includes a broad range of landscape scale measures.

For further information please contact:

Professor Tommy Dalgaard, Department of Agroecology, e-mail: tommy.dalgaard@agro.au.dk, tel.: 8715 7746, mobile: +45 2070 6132

PhD student Morten Graversgaard, Department of Agroecology, e-mail: morten.graversgaard@agro.au.dk, mobile: +45 2564 5560

Research Scientist Jeppe Kjaersgaard, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, USA, e-mail: Jeppe.Kjaersgaard@state.mn.us, tel.: (+1) 651-201-6149