The sustainable management of soils, while constituting an important resource conservation concern in some contexts, has been neglected in the UK. However, this all seems set to change, with implications for various actors within the agricultural knowledge system. New policies designed to encourage the more sustainable management of soils in England together with the introduction of Soil Management Plans (SMP) as part of cross-compliance under recent Common Agricultural Policy reform mean that demands on agricultural advisors’ knowledge about soil will increase. This paper reports the findings of research into the nature and extent of agricultural advisors’ knowledge about soil best management practice. Specifically, it examines the ‘know-what’, ‘know-why’ and ‘know-how’ of soils among agricultural advisors through analysis of data collected from an extensive postal questionnaire survey of 162 advisors across England supplemented by qualitative data from semi-structured interviews with 64 advisors. The results show that as a community advisors are generally knowledgeable about soil best management practice and appear to be observing soil degradation, undertaking training, using guides, tools and recommending soil best management practice to a relatively large extent. The data however do indicate that different types of advisors hold different forms of knowledge to a different extent. They also reveal gaps in knowledge gained through practical experience about cultivation and using the nutrient value of manures. The paper concludes that advisors’ knowledge about soil and its sustainable management is considerably greater than earlier research on advisors’ environmental knowledge has suggested but that some areas will have to be significantly enhanced and standardised to meet the new policy challenges. The significance of the results is discussed in terms of the wider role advisors play in the transition from ‘production only’ goals towards those concerned with more sustainable practices in agriculture.
Land Use Policy – Elsevier
Published: Jan 1, 2007
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