Social structure and the choice of cropping technology: Influence of personal networks on the decision to adopt conservation tillage

Warriner, G. Keith
Moul, Gertrude M.
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Agriculture Canada

This report employs a multifaceted approach to examining the decision framework of farmers in relation to the decision to adopt or not to adopt conservation tillage. Responses from a representative cross-section of 259 farms surveyed in 1988 in the SWEEP project area are compared to those from a second, nonprobability sample of 55 known conservation tillage adopters for the purpose of examining the relative importance of various on-site, economic, sociodemographic, attitudinal and social network influences leading to the adoption of soil conservation practices. A distinguishing aspect of this research is the focus of the examination on the farmer's social frame of reference constituted of family, friends and acquaintances to whom he may turn for information or guidance concerning the choice of cropping technology. In this regard we examine both the membership of this network and its structure. The membership of the network, ranging from spouse, through other family, friends, neighbors, and farm advisors constitute important sources of information on farming to which the operator may turn. In addition, the structure, or form, of this network facilitates or impedes the receipt of information concerning innovative farming practice. Thus the research goals are: 1) to provide evidence of the influence of the structural characteristics of the farmer's communication network in enabling the diffusion of innovation of conservation tillage, 2) to assess information concerning what actors typically constitute the reference group of farmers with regard to decisions on tillage and other farm practices, 3) to assess the relative influence of social, economic, site and cognitive factors in leading to the adoption of new cropping technologies, 4) to compare known adopters with the general cash crop farming public of south-western Ontario on farm and operator characteristics, and 5) to estimate the relative rates of adoption of conservation tillage and other conservation practices among rowcrop farmers during the 1987 growing season.

Soil and Water Environmental Enhancement Program (SWEEP)
conservation tillage, soil structure, cropping, soil conservation, social network, perceptions, farmer