Measuring and Understanding Agricultural Producers' Adoption of Nutrient Best Management Practices

Document Type


Journal/Book Title

Journal of Soil and Water Conservation

Publication Date



Soil and Water Conservation Society





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Last Page



Effective nutrient management has the potential to be instrumental in reducing agricultural nonpoint source pollution. Relatively few agricultural producers, however, have voluntarily adopted nutrient management conservation practices, and many users do not follow each recommendation or implement practices on all of their applicable land. Most existing research has used a binary measure of adoption, meaning the ability to accurately predict and understand adoption levels of conservation practices is limited. A statewide survey of 1,320 agricultural landowners and producers in Indiana was conducted in early 2014 to collect information about awareness and usage of nutrient management practices. We use this data to explore the determinants of farmers’ usage of four nutrient best management practices and test whether a more precise measurement of practice adoption results in better model fit. We find that while there is relatively high uptake of soil testing (85%), farmers in Indiana are less likely to use variable rate application, application timing, and nutrient management plans, and the degree to which farmers adopt practices varies. There were few consistent predictors of practice uptake, yet attending workshops for information, access to equipment, larger farm size, trust in crop consultants, and usage of conservation crop rotations were positive predictors of at least two of the four practices. Usage of an ordinal rather than a binary measure of adoption did not improve model predictability as hypothesized, suggesting that future research should continue to try novel measures.

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