Factors influencing the adoption of water pollution mitigation measures by farmers in England
Environmental Science Department
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A range of interventions are available to influence the uptake of farm practices which mitigate groundwater pollution. Deciding which are the most appropriate for particular measures poses a challenge to policy makers. Whilst many measures remain voluntary, implementation will only be effective with the co-operation of stakeholders and evidence regarding the factors influencing measure uptake is crucial to aid policy design.Research conducted as part of the Demonstration Test Catchment (DTC) project explored the factors influencing farmer adoption of water pollution mitigation measures through three related surveys. Over two hundred farmers and farm advisors participated in interviews from three contrasting regions of England: the grassland dominated North West; the arable dominated East Anglia; and the mixed and dairy farming of the South West.Results from the two farmer surveys provided a baseline of current agricultural practices, insights regarding farmer attitudes to the adoption of other mitigation measures in the future and understanding of the motivations and barriers to the adoption of specific measures such as, cover crops, sub soiling and farm yard infrastructure. Results from the farm advisor interviews revealed the types of mitigation measures recommended by various advisors, which mechanisms (regulatory advice, financial incentives, signposting or voluntary approach) were being used to influence the uptake of measures, and whether differences occurred between sources of advice.The results illustrate the great diversity amongst the farming community, the range of factors influencing mitigation measure uptake and the differing complexities of farmers’ decisions to change their behaviour. Different combinations of interventions are required not only for each mitigation measure but also within the different regions surveyed. The importance of advice is illustrated but knowing which advisors are most suitable to deliver information and how is highlighted as being essential for policy design. Policy recommendations are provided as to what needs to change to influence adoption of specific mitigation measures to improve catchment management and advice provision.