Skip to main content Accessibility help

Farm level implementation of soil conservation measures: farmers’ beliefs and intentions

  • Magdalena Werner (a1), Erwin Wauters (a2), Jo Bijttebier (a2), Horst-Henning Steinmann (a1), Greet Ruysschaert (a3) and Andrea Knierim (a4) (a5)...


Understanding motivating factors for taking soil conservation measures is seen as key to improving on-farm implementation. However, to date only few on-farm conservation measures have been investigated. The objective of this paper is to investigate the influence of farmers’ subjective beliefs on their intention to apply and actual implementation of cover cropping, with the region of Brandenburg (Germany) as a case. An additional objective was to investigate how these insights can contribute to increase farm level implementation of soil conservation measures. Theory of planned behavior provides an approach to understand human behavior by analyzing farmers’ subjective beliefs. Our results, based on a survey of 96 farmers, show that attitudes (ATTs) and perceived difficulty significantly explain variations in intention to apply cover cropping, with ATTs being generally very positive. We discuss that, in this case, the most effective way to increase on-farm implementation is to decrease the farmers’ perception of difficulty. This can be achieved by providing information to farmers on how to overcome barriers to implementation of conservation measures. In-depth insights into belief structures reveal what kind of information is most useful in the case of cover cropping.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author:


Hide All
Ahnstrom, J., Hockert, J., Bergea, H.L., Francis, C.A., Skelton, P., and Hallgren, L. 2009. Farmers and nature conservation: What is known about attitudes, context factors and actions affecting conservation? Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 24(1):3847.
Ajzen, I. 1991. The theory of planned behavior. Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processess 20:179211.
Ajzen, I. 2002. Constructing a TPB questionnaire: Conceptual and methodological Considerations. Available at Web site (verified 7 July 2016).
Amt für Statistik Berlin-Brandenburg (ed.) 2015. Bodennutzung der landwirtschaftlichen Betriebe im Land Brandenburg (Statistischer Bericht, C/1-j/14)’. Available at Web site (verified 10 August 2015).
Armitage, C.J. and Conner, M. 2001. Efficacy of the theory of planned behaviour: A meta-analytic review. British Journal of Social Psychology 40:471499.
Beedell, J. and Rehman, T. 1999. Explaining farmers’ conservation behaviour: Why do farmers behave the way they do? Journal of Environmental Management 57(3):165176.
Beedell, J. and Rehman, T. 2000. Using social-psychology models to understand farmers’ conservation behaviour. Journal of Rural Studies 16(1):117127.
BMELV 2013. Gute fachliche Praxis Bodenbewirtschaftung und Bodenschutz. Bundesministerium für Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Verbraucherschutz, Bonn.
Browne, M.W. and Cudeck, R. 1992. Alternative ways of assessing model fit. Sociological Methods and Research 21(2):230258.
Byrne, B.M. and Watkins, D. 2003. The issue of measurement invariance revisited. Journal of Cross-cultural Psychology 34(2):155175.
Carr, S. and Tait, J. 1991. Differences in the attitudes of farmers and conservationists and their implications. Journal of Environmental Management 32(3):281294.
Conner, M. and Armitage, C.J. 1998. Extending the theory of planned behavior: A review and avenues for further research. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 28(15):14291464.
Creswell, J.W. and Plano Clark, V.L. 2007. Designing and Conducting Mixed Methods Research. SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Currle, J. 1995. Landwirte und Bodenabtrag: Empirische Analyse der bäuerlichen Wahrnehmung von Bodenerosion und Erosionsschutzverfahren in drei Gemeinden des Kraichgaus. Margraf, Weikersheim.
de Graaf, J., Kessler, A., and Olsen, P. 2010. Farm level adoption of soil and water conservation measures and policy implications in Europe. Land Use Policy 27:13.
Ervin, C.A. and Ervin, D.E. 1982. Factors affecting the use of soil conservation practices: Hypotheses, evidence and policy implications. Land Economics 58(3):277292.
European Commission—Joint Research Centre—IES 2012. The State of Soil in Europe JRC Reference Report. Available at Web site (verified 24 October 2012).
Fielding, K.S., Terry, D.J., Masser, B.M., Bordia, P., and Hogg, M.A. 2005. Explaining landholders’ decisions about riparian zone management: The role of behavioural, normative, and control beliefs. Journal of Environmental Management 77(1):1221.
Fishbein, M. and Ajzen, I. 1975. Belief, Attitude, Intention and Behaviour: An Introduction to Theory and Research, Addison-Wesley, Reading.
Flett, R., Alpass, F., Humphries, S., Massey, C., Morriss, S., and Long, N. 2004. The technology acceptance model and use of technology in New Zealand dairy farming. Agricultural Systems 80:199211.
Fragar, L., Kelly, B., and Peters, M. 2008. Partnerships to promote mental health of NSW farmers: The New South Wales Farmers Blueprint for mental health. Australian Journal Rural Health 16(3):170175.
Grothmann, T. and Patt, A. 2005. Adaptive capacity and human cognition: The process of individual adaptation to climate change. Global Environmental Change 15(3):199213.
Gselman, A. and Kramberger, B. 2008. Benefits of winter legume cover crops require early seeding. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 59:11561163.
Hagger, M.S., Chatzisarantis, N.L.D., and Biddle, S.J.H. 2002. A meta-analytic review of the Theories of Reasoned Action and Planned Behavior in physical activity: Predictive validity and the contribution of additional variables. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology 24:332.
Heong, K.L. and Escalada, M.M. 1999. Quantifying rice farmers’ pest management decisions: Beliefs and subjective norms in stem borer control. Crop Protection 18(5):315322.
Hijbeek, R., Wolf, J., and van Ittersum, M. 2014. A typology of farming systems, related soil management and soil degradation in eight European countries. Catch-C Report D2.242. Available at Web site (verified 19 March 2016).
Hu, L.T. and Bentler, P.M. 1998. Fit indices in covariance structure modeling: Sensitivity to underparameterized model misspecification. Psychological Methods 3(4):424453.
Kuo, S. and Sainju, U.M. 1998. Nitrogen mineralization and availability of mixed leguminous and non-leguminous cover crop residues in soil. Biology and Fertility of Soils 26:346353.
Lemaire, G., Recous, S., and Mary, B. 2004. Managing residues and nitrogen in intensive cropping systems. New understanding for efficient recovery by crops. Proceedings of the 4th International Crop Science Congress, 26 September–1 October 2004, Brisbane, Australia. Available at Web site (verified 1 October 2015).
Lokhorst, A.M., Hoon, C., Le Rutte, R., and de Snoo, G. 2014. There is an I in nature: The crucial role of the self in nature conservation. Land Use Policy 39:121126.
Lokhorst, A.M., Staats, H., van Dijk, J., van Dijk, E., and de Snoo, G. 2011. What's in it for Me? Motivational Differences between Farmers’ Subsidised and Non-Subsidised Conservation Practices. Applied Psychology 60(3):337353.
Lynne, G.D., Casey, C.F., Hodges, A., and Rahmani, M. 1995. Conservation technology adoption decisions and the theory of planned behavior. Journal of Economic Psychology 16:581598.
McCann, E., Sullivan, S., Ericson, D., and DeYoung, R. 1997. Environmental awareness, economic orientation, and farming practices: Comparison of organic and conventional farmers. Environmental Management 21(5):747758.
Meijer, S., Catacutan, D., Sileshi, G., and Nieuwenhuis, M. 2015. Tree planting by smallholder farmers in Malawi: Using the theory of planned behaviour to examine the relationship between attitudes and behaviour. Journal of Environmental Psychology 43:112.
Napier, T.L., Thraen, C.S., Gore, A., and Goe, W.R. 1984. Factors affecting adoption of conventional and conservation tillage practices in Ohio. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 39(3):205209.
Prager, K. 2002. Akzeptanz von Massnahmen zur Umsetzung einer umweltschonenden Landbewirtschaftung bei Landwirten und Beratern in Brandenburg. Margraf, Weikersheim.
Price, J.C. and Leviston, Z. 2014. Predicting pro-environmental agricultural practices: The social, psychological and contextual influences on land management. Journal of Rural Studies 34:6578.
Quast, J., Böhme, M., Ehlert, V., Ette, J., Gottschik, M., Jaeckel, A., Knierim, A., Messal, H., Sawicka, M., Sbjeschni, A., Schmidt, W., Szerencsits, M., and Tümpling, W. v. 2011. Flood risks in consequence of agrarian land-use measures in flood formation and inundation zones and conclusions for flood risk management plans. Irrigation and Drainage 60:105112.
Rodriguez, J.M., Molnar, J.J., Fazio, R.A., Sydnor, E., and Lowe, M.J. 2009. Barriers to adoption of sustainable agriculture practices: Change agent perspectives. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 24(1):60.
Rogers, E.M. 2003. Diffusion of Innovations. 5th ed. Free Press, New York.
Schumacker, R.E. and Beyerlein, S.T. 2000. Confirmatory factor analysis with different correlation types and estimation methods. Structural Equation Modelling – A Multidisciplinary Journal 7(4):629636.
Sheeran, P., Trafimow, D., and Armitage, C.J. 2003. Predicting behaviour from perceived behavioural control: Tests of the accuracy assumption of the theory of planned behaviour. British Journal of Social Psychology 42(3):393410.
Siebert, R., Toogood, M., and Knierim, A. 2006. Factors affecting European farmers’ participation in biodiversity policies. Sociologia Ruralis 46(4):318340.
Soule, M.J., Abebayehu, T., and Keith, D.W. 2000. Land tenure and the adoption of conservation practices. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 82(4):9931005.
Statistisches Bundesamt 2011. Bodennutzung der Betriebe einschließlich Zwischenfruchtanbau Landwirtschaftszählung / Agrarstrukturerhebung Fachserie 3 Reihe 2.1.2. Available at Web site (verified 19 December 2016).
St John, F.A.V., Edwards-Jones, G., and Jones, J.P.G. 2010. Conservation and human behaviour: Lessons from social psychology. Wildlife Research 37(8):658667.
Turvey, C. 1991. Environmental quality constraints and farm-level decision making. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 73:13991404.
van Dijk, W.F.A., Lokhorst, A.M., Berendse, F., and de Snoo, G.R. 2015. Collective agri-environment schemes: How can regional environmental cooperatives enhance farmers’ intentions for agri-environment schemes? Land Use Policy 42:759766.
Vanslembrouck, I., Van Huylenbroeck, G., and Verbeke, W. 2002. Determinants of the willingness of Belgian farmers to participate in agri-environmental measures. Journal of Agricultural Economics 53:489511.
Vaughan, J.D., Hoyt, G.D., and Wollum, A.G. II 2000. Cover crop nitrogen availability to conventional and no-till corn: Soil mineral nitrogen, corn nitrogen status, and corn yield. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 31:10171041.
Watson, C.A., Atkinson, D., Gosling, P., Jackson, L.R., and Rayns, F.W. 2002. Managing soil fertility in organic farming systems. Soil Use and Management 18:239247.
Wauters, E., Bielders, C., Poesen, J., Govers, G., and Mathijs, E. 2010. Adoption of soil conservation practices in Belgium: An examination of the theory of planned behaviour in the agri-environmental domain. Land Use Policy 27(1):8694.
Wauters, E. and Mathijs, E. 2014. The adoption of farm level soil conservation practices in developed countries: A meta-analytic review. International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology 10(1):78101.
Yammarino, F.J., Skinner, S.J., and Childers, T.L. 1991. Understanding mail survey response behavior: A meta analysis. Public Opinion Quarterly 55:613639.
Young, C.E. and Shortle, J.S. 1984. Investment in soil conservation structures: The role of farm operator and operation characteristics. Agricultural Economics Research 36(2):1015.
Zubair, M. and Garforth, C. 2006. Farm level tree planting in Pakistan: The role of farmers’ perceptions and attitudes. Agroforestry Systems 66(3):217229.
Zubair, M., Garforth, C., Hussain, S.B., Zahid, D.M., Baloch, M., Safdar, S., and Fazalur, R. 2011. Farm Forestry in Pakistan: An application of Theory of Planned Behavior by probing in the measurement issues. Pakistan Journal of Botany 43(1):705714.


Farm level implementation of soil conservation measures: farmers’ beliefs and intentions

  • Magdalena Werner (a1), Erwin Wauters (a2), Jo Bijttebier (a2), Horst-Henning Steinmann (a1), Greet Ruysschaert (a3) and Andrea Knierim (a4) (a5)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed