More details of the study I am involved in are given below, but I'll
try to summarise here the issues that currently need clarifying.
We need to survey horticultural producers (I'm mainly concerned
with UK producers, although Spanish and Brazilian farms are also to be
covered), who have adopted "sustainable agricultural techniques".
With a sample of 300 farms, we need to draw up a questionnaire that
will ask the appropriate questions, so that farms can be labelled as
"Adopters " or "Non-Adopters" of such techniques.
Clearly the drawing up of such criteria is difficult, and whichever
we choose will be open to criticism. One avenue I am currently
exploring is to draw on the standards laid down by various Organic
Certification schemes. These appear to focus on the use of chemicals
for weed, pest and disease control. Also relevant for horticultural
producers are bans on the use of peat and rockwool, and restrictions
on propagation and the use of transplants.
I would be most grateful for any advice regarding the key aspects of
horticultural production that one should seek information on, in
order to enable this classification of producers according to the
sustainability of their techniques.
Any comments at all are most welcome
School of Economic Studies
ADOPTION OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURAL TECHNOLOGIES: ECONOMIC AND
(An ESRC funded project, under Phase IV of the Global Environmental
This study examines the factors which determine the adoption of
sustainable agricultural technology. It will go beyond narrow
economic considerations (such as relative profitability) to include
non-economic factors such as agroclimatic conditions,
attitudes/awareness of environmental issues, institutional setting and
external economic pressures. Field work will be conducted in three
countries- Brazil, Spain and the UK- in order to allow adoption under
a wide range socio-economic conditions to be investigated and
An initial task of the project is to identify a characterisation of
agricultural practices which are judged to be (un)sustainable. These
could include, for example, the use of specific inputs or membership
of appropriate certification schemes. Having made this judgement,
data will be collected in the form of detailed surveys and interviews
with adopters and non-adopters in each country.
The empirical work will focus on the production of horticultural
products, since significant numbers of adopters of alternative
technologies can often be found in this sector. The questionnaires
will cover the characteristics of the farm and farmer, 'information
issues' such as awareness of environmental hazards and access to
formal and informal networks, and the institutional setting including
access to extension services and credit, and participation in local
organisations such as marketing co-operatives. Quantitative techniques
will then be used to investigate the adoption/non-adoption decision.
The methodology will establish how significant each of the economic
and non-economic factors is in explaining farmers' decisions. It will
also be possible to predict the probability that a given farmer, with
a particular profile of socio-economic characteristics, will choose to
adopt sustainable farming practices.
The research findings will inform the debate on appropriate
interventions to encourage the adoption of sustainable technologies.
The results will be of interest to a wide range of agents in the food
system, including environmental groups and NGOs, extension services,
donors of agricultural development projects and programmes, input
supply and product marketing industries, and agricultural policy