Decision-Making in Agriculture: Why do Farmers Decide to Adopt a New Practice?
Current rates of environmental degradation demand changes to the way in which food is produced. Transforming agricultural production requires both the development and the adoption of new practices that facilitate high yields at least environmental cost. Many beneficial practices have already been developed and their limited adoption now constrains their potential to deliver sustainable agriculture. Greater understanding is needed of why farmers decide to adopt or reject different practices. The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) has been used in an agricultural context to examine adoption. The TAM posits that perceptions of a practice’s usefulness (PU) and its ease of use (PEOU) drive its adoption. In this thesis, the TAM was first revised such that adoption was considered as being composed of five stages to reflect the preparatory and trial phases that precede the full-scale adoption of agricultural practices. An empirical study was then conducted to investigate farmers’ attitudes in the Southern Ontario region towards agrominerals and cover cropping – two practices that show promise in maintaining soil health at low environmental cost. PU and PEOU were found to be significant drivers of the adoption of agrominerals. However, PEOU did not have a significant direct effect on farmers’ decisions to continue using cover crops. A longitudinal study that applies the revised TAM is needed to ascertain whether it is effective in explaining the adoption process, particularly in the latter stages of adoption when PEOU appears to be of less importance and PU alone appears to largely drive farmers’ decision-making. The concern participants showed for the potential environmental impacts of agriculture highly varied with those showing greater concern reporting greater intentions of adopting agrominerals. Socio-economic and agro-ecological factors were found not to be correlated to adoption. This study demonstrated the need to increase knowledge sharing between farmers and scientists to facilitate the transition towards sustainable agricultural production.