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Social capital factors affecting uptake of sustainable soil management practices: a literature review

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Niki RustORCiD, Sara Iversen, Professor Mark Reed, Rosmarie Neumann



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Soil quality is in decline in many parts of the world, in part due to the intensification of agricultural practices. Whilst economic instruments and regulations can help incentivise uptake of more sustainable soil management practices, they rarely motivate long-term behavior change when used alone. We are now beginning to pay attention to the complex social factors that affect uptake of sustainable soil management practices. To understand why some communities try these practices whilst others do not, we undertook a narrative review to understand how social capital influences adoption. We found that the four components of social capital – trust, norms, connectedness and power – can all influence the decision of farmers to change their soil management. Specifically, information flows more effectively across trusted, diverse networks where social norms exist to encourage innovation. Uptake is more limited in homogenous, close-knit farming communities that do not have many links with non-farmers and where there is a strong social norm to adhere to the status quo. Power can enhance or inhibit uptake depending on how it is managed. Future research, policy and practice should consider whether a lack of effective social capital could hinder uptake of new practices and, if so, which aspects of social capital could be developed to increase adoption of sustainable soil management practices. Enabling diverse, collaborative groups (including farmers, advisers and government officials) to work constructively together could help build effective social capital, where they can co-define, -develop and -enact measures to sustainably manage soils.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rust NA, Ptak EN, Graversgaard M, Iversen S, Reed MS, de Vries JR, Ingram J, Mills J, Neumann RK, Kjeldsen C, Muro M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Emerald Open Research - Sustainable Food Systems

Year: 2020

Volume: 2

Issue: 8

Online publication date: 27/04/2020

Acceptance date: 27/04/2020

Date deposited: 28/04/2020

ISSN (electronic): 2631-3952

Publisher: Emerald Open Research


DOI: 10.35241/emeraldopenres.13412.2


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Funder referenceFunder name
Horizon 2020 Framework grant [677407]