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How farmers use nature conservation measures

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Researchers at WSL asked farmers what motivated them to plant trees on their land, for example, to help protect biodiversity, water or soil. The survey is part of the international project BASIL (Balancing Agroecosystem Services In Landscapes), which is investigating what agricultural and environmental policy measures can promote sustainable agriculture.

The initial results of the survey of around 200 farmers in Germany, Spain and Switzerland indicate that: Money does increase their willingness to plant trees, but the respondents in all three countries tend to view additional nature conservation programs critically. The farmers were most likely to plant trees to protect their own soil and less readily for the sake of biodiversity, at least in Spain and Switzerland. If colleagues, however, recommended planting trees, the respondents were more willing to implement the same measure. Scientific recommendations were mostly poorly received, and in Switzerland tended to be even counter­productive.

If voluntary nature conservation in arable land is to be promoted, then care should be taken to emphasise the added value for farmers. In addition, it is worth trying to motivate them to exchange among themselves and to learn from each other. In order for research to receive more attention from practising farmers, recommendations should be embedded within more comprehensive consulting activities. (Christine Huovinen, Diagonal 1/18)