RRRD010: Factors affecting adoption of land management practices that have water quality benefits: Evaluation of scenarios for cane farming in GBR catchments

Delwar Akbar1, John Rolfe1, Lindsay Greer1, Phillip Smith2 and Nadine Marshall3

Centre for Environmental Management, CQUniversity

School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, The University of Queensland

CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences

pdfDownload the RRRD010 Research Outcomes Report2.41 MB

Executive Summary

The aim of this study was to identify factors affecting adoption of land management practices (LMPs) in cane farming that have water quality benefits in Great Barrier Reef (GBR) catchments. The project used a case study approach to explore the key factors that affect adoption of LMPs in two regions of the GBR catchment – Mackay and Bundaberg. A literature review identified factors that impact on the adoption of LMPs in cane farming, and these were examined in greater detail through discussions with 17 stakeholders and 116 cane farmers. Their responses were then analysed though descriptive statistics, fuzzy logic and a measure of consensus and agreement .

This study assessed the acceptance by cane farmers of three categories of land management practices in cane farming in GBR catchments, Queensland: (1) nutrient and herbicide management, (2) soil and erosion management, and (3) water and irrigation management. The study found that cane farmers are most interested in nutrient and herbicide management practices (with an average 70% consensus and agreement), compared to soil and erosion management, and water and irrigation management practices (with an average 50% to 60% consensus and agreement).

Within all three categories of land management, the following practices were considered the most desirable and relevant LMPs with water quality benefits, specifically at the paddock scale:

  • green cane trash blanket retention,
  • grassed headlands,
  • drains and swails,
  • sediment traps and contour banks,
  • irrigation scheduling based on block and soil types,
  • timing nutrient and pesticides application with regard to crop stage,
  • irrigation scheduling that takes into account rainfall patterns,
  • soil testing fallow blocks each year, and
  • variable rate of fertiliser/pesticides application between blocks and application rates based on latest industry recommendations.

The study also examined the factors influencing adoption of LMPs that have water quality benefits and provided a summary of these factors. The survey results identified nine factors that appear to have the greatest influence farmers' decisions to adopt changed practices:

  • access to and availability of cash flow,
  • working full-time on the farm,
  • self-desire to protect natural resources,
  • self-awareness and openness to current and scientific knowledge,
  • focus on controlling own practice,
  • maintaining a quarterly budget,
  • having a cost control and risk management plan,
  • capacity to maximise profit and minimise labour and overhead costs,
  • maintaining a long-term steady profit, and
  • long-term involvement with farming.

Half of these factors are economic factors and half of these are socio-cultural factors. This demonstrates how socio-cultural and economic factors significantly influence farmers in making decisions about the adoption of LMPs, and a sophisticated understanding of social, economic and cultural dynamics is critical for increasing adoption of LMPs in cane farming that have water quality benefits.

The study concluded that decisions about the adoption of LMPs with water quality benefits are equally dependent upon four categories of factors:

  • socio-demographic,
  • cultural,
  • economic, and
  • support services.

There are also linkages and barriers among the factors influencing the adoption of LMPs with water quality benefits. Further study of linear and non-linear linkages between social, political and institutional systems that influence the adoption of LMPs with water quality benefits is needed. An in-depth qualitative study on the effectiveness of support services is also necessary as support services are very important in determining and influencing LMP adoption decisions.