Promoting Soil Health Innovations: Barriers, Motivations, and Enabling Conditions

Authors: Joanna Ory*, UC Berkeley
Topics: Environment, Agricultural Geography
Keywords: agriculture, policy, soil health
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Governor's Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper reports on the findings from 2018 statewide survey of University of California Cooperative Extension Specialists (UCCE), county-level Resource Conservation District (RCD) advisers, and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) personnel regarding the adoption of practices that build soil health on California farms and ranches. We asked questions regarding which soil health practices are most commonly recommended, which federal and state policies discourage or encourage the adoption of particular practices, and what factors are the strongest motivators for farmers to implement soil health building practices. We found that cover cropping, use of compost, reduced tillage, and rotational grazing were among the most commonly recommended and the most highly valued practices for contributing to healthier soils. Respondents reported that the Environmental Quality Incentives Program has the strongest impact on the adoption of soil health practices, and that there is a perceived negative impact of food safety policies on the adoption of practices like cover cropping and compost application. The survey also showed that the most important barriers to adoption include economic factors of low or uncertain profits for growers, high costs of maintenance, and high short-term costs of adoption. The findings from the survey are complimented by farmer interviews that further elucidate the agronomic, policy, and market barriers and motivating factors for farmer adoption of soil health practices. The paper concludes with recommendations for training and policies to encourage best management practices for long-term soil health.

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