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Organic farmers’ motivations and challenges for adopting conservation agriculture in Europe


Conservation agriculture and organic farming are considered as promising sustainable agricultural system for producing food, while minimizing environmental impacts. Despite an increasing number of experimental data on organic conservation practices and various studies dealing with the adoption of conservation agriculture by farmers, none of those studies have specifically addressed conservation agriculture adoption under organic conditions in Europe. We carried out a survey with 159 farmers located in 10 European countries. These farmers had applied at least two of the following conservation practices: (i) no-tillage, (ii) reduced tillage and (iii) green manures. Each farmer assessed socio-economic, agronomic and environmental motivations and problems for each conservation practice, using a Likert scale. For each conservation practice, we ranked motivations and problems and carried out a principal component analysis, followed by clustering to identify groups of farmers. Independent of the conservation practices, the most important motivations were related to soil fertility preservation and challenges were mainly linked to crop management, machinery and yield performances. For all conservation practices, we identify three groups of farmers that shared the same type of motivations and challenges across Europe: “soil conservationists,” “agro-technically challenged farmers,” and “indifferent farmers.” Soil conservationist farmers were strongly motivated by soil preservation and minimizing environmental impacts. Agro-technically challenged farmers mainly expressed agronomic problems and challenges. There were no clear effects of location or farm characteristics explaining these attitudes, but they depended on farmers’ environmental concerns and beliefs. The study demonstrated that research priorities should address agronomic problems caused by the adoption of conservation practices in organic farming, weed control in particular.

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This research was supported by CORE Organic II Funding Bodies, being partners of the FP7 ERANet (, in the framework of TILMAN-ORG project ( The authors would like to thank Mathieu Guérin, Monica Stanica-Negrescu, Teatske Bakker, Anne Brogi, Lisa Nilles, Rethy Katalin and European interviewed farmers.

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Correspondence to Marion Casagrande.

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Marion Casagrande, Joséphine Peigné, Vincent Payet, Paul Mäder, F.Xavier Sans, José Manuel Blanco-Moreno, Daniele Antichi, Paolo Bàarberi, Annelies Beeckman, Frederica Bigongiali, Julia Cooper, Hansueli Dierauer, Kate Gascoyne, Meike Grosse, Juergen Heß, Andreas Kanzler, Anne Luik, Elen Peetsmann, Koen Willekens and Christophe David declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Casagrande, M., Peigné, J., Payet, V. et al. Organic farmers’ motivations and challenges for adopting conservation agriculture in Europe. Org. Agr. 6, 281–295 (2016).

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  • Farmers
  • Conservation agriculture
  • Organic farming
  • Motivations
  • Challenges
  • Attitudes