27 Aug 2018

Financial incentives no silver bullet for sustainable agriculture - study

8:25 am on 27 August 2018

A Landcare Research study shows financial incentives to encourage more sustainable practices on farms are not enough.

dairy cows grazing in a field

dairy cows grazing in a field Photo: 123RF

The research, as part of the National Science Challenges, investigated the best incentives to promote changes within the agriculture sector in the face of approaching climate change.

One of the authors, Landcare Research senior scientist Nick Cradock-Henry said he had been working with farmers over the last seven or eight years and had found awareness around climate change was growing.

Dr Cradock-Henry said it was partly due to recent severe weather events.

"We've had repeated drought years, increased incidents of flooding, as well as some unexpected and quite severe snow storm events.

"So while all of those things are quite normal, the severity of some of those droughts in particular, it's made farmers much more conscious of management practices," he said.

However, when looking at what would encourage farmers to make changes, Dr Cradock-Henry found financial incentives became less effective over time.

"Simply because they don't actually address the root causes, they don't tackle the attitudes, the values and there's more effective ways to actually promote and sustain long term adaptive behaviours," he said.

He added better communication around the risks, working alongside farmers and promoting change in social norms and technology, would be much more motivating.

He said incremental changes were already happening in New Zealand and the next challenge were the much larger projects, which would have more of a long-term impact.

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