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Examining the social and biophysical determinants of U.S. Midwestern corn farmers’ adoption of precision agriculture


Precision agricultural technologies (PA) such as global positioning system tools have been commercially available since the early 1990s and they are widely thought to have environmental and economic benefit; however, adoption studies show uneven adoption among farmers in the U.S. and Europe. This study aims to tackle a lingering puzzle regarding why some farmers adopt precision agriculture as an approach to food production and why others do not. The specific objective of this study is to examine the social and biophysical determinants of farmers’ adoption of PA. This paper fills a research gap by including measurements of farmer identity—specifically their own conceptions of their role in the food system—as well as their perceptions of biophysical risks as these relate to the adoption of PA among a large sample of Midwestern U.S. farmers. The study has identified that farmer identity and perceptions of environmental risk do indeed influence PA adoption and that these considerations ought to be incorporated into further studies of PA adoption in other jurisdictions. The findings also appear to highlight the social force of policy and industry efforts to frame PA as not only good for productivity and efficiency but also as an ecologically beneficial technology.

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The survey research included in this study was supported by the USDA-NIFA, Award No. 2011-68002-30190, “Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project: Climate Change, Mitigation, and Adaptation in Corn-based Cropping Systems.” Project website: Maaz Gardezi would like to thank the Big Data Spokes: Digital Agriculture—Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Plant Sciences, and Education (UASPSE) for their Early Career Researcher Foreign Collaboration grant. We would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers who provided helpful comments on an earlier version of the paper.

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Correspondence to Kelly Bronson.

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Gardezi, M., Bronson, K. Examining the social and biophysical determinants of U.S. Midwestern corn farmers’ adoption of precision agriculture. Precision Agric 21, 549–568 (2020).

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  • Precision agriculture
  • Adoption
  • Farmer identity
  • Biophysical risks
  • Risk perception