Why wheat farmers could reduce chemical inputs: evidence from social, economic, and agronomic analysis
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Though European policies recommend pesticide reduction, most farmers still manage their crops with a high level of chemical inputs, notably in arable crop-based systems. Factors influencing farmers’ practices and the reasons why they do not adopt alternative techniques are not well-known. Actual reports on that topic are based on monodisciplinary analyses either in agronomy, sociology, or economics, whereas farmers’ motives are most probably manifold. Therefore, we surveyed winter wheat agricultural practices to understand the factors influencing the choice of crop management plans implemented by farmers. We interviewed 71 farmers in the French Department of Eure-et-Loir. Results revealed three main types of practices depending on inputs and wheat yield: (1) 29 % of farmers use low levels of inputs and get low yield, (2) 38 % of farmers use medium levels of inputs and get high yield, (3) 33 % of farmers use high levels of inputs and get medium yield. We found that the medium-input type is the most efficient with better economic results whatever the wheat price. On the other hand, the high-input type has a lower economic performance. We showed that farm profile, individual motives, and social commitments explain the level of input use. High-input practices are often implemented by farmers who have less family labor availability and who rarely join extension groups, whereas low-input practices are conducted by farmers bearing civic responsibilities and showing environmental awareness. The novelty of our study is to use a multidisciplinary analysis to take into account agronomic, social, and economic factors.
KeywordsCrop management plan Low-input systems Winter wheat Farmer typology
The authors thank the students from the DA AGRECINA (ecology and agronomic innovations) of Agricultural Engineering Schools of ESA Angers and ISARA Lyon, who conducted the surveys, and their professor Marie Mawois, as well as local institutions (cooperatives, Chamber of Agriculture, and advice organizations) for giving their time to students, and farmers who took part in the survey. We also want to thank Claire Lamine and Marianne Cerf for their contribution to this work. This research was done with the financial support of ANR Systerra—Popsy program (ANR 08-STRA 12).
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