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Have farmers had enough of experts?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Niki RustORCiD, Petra Stankovics, Professor Mark Reed



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


The exponential rise of information available means we can now, in theory, access knowledge on almost any question we ask. However, as the amount of unverified information increases, so too does the challenge in deciding which information to trust. Farmers, when learning about agricultural innovations, have historically relied on in-person advice from traditional ‘experts’, such as agricultural advisers, to inform farm management. As more farmers go online for information, it is not clear whether they are now using digital information to corroborate in-person advice from traditional ‘experts’, or if they are foregoing ‘expert’ advice in preference for peer-generated information. To fill this knowledge gap, we sought to understand how farmers in two contrasting European countries (Hungary and the UK) learnt about sustainable soil innovations and who influenced them to innovate. Through interviews with 82 respondents, we found farmers in both countries regularly used online sources to access soil information; some were prompted to change their soil management by farmer social media ‘influencers’. However, online information and interactions were not usually the main factor influencing farmers to change their practices. Farmers placed most trust in other farmers to learn about new soil practices and were less trusting of traditional ‘experts’, particularly agricultural researchers from academic and government institutions, who they believed were not empathetic towards farmers’ needs. We suggest that some farmers may indeed have had enough of traditional ‘experts’, instead relying more on their own peer networks to learn and innovate. We discuss ways to improve trustworthy knowledge exchange between agricultural stakeholders to increase uptake of sustainable soil management practices, while acknowledging the value of peer influence and online interactions for innovation and trust building.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rust NA, Stankovics P, Jarvis RM, Morris-Trainor Z, de Vries J, Ingram J, Mills J, Glikman JA, Parkinson J, Toth Z, Hansda R, McMorran R, Glass J, Reed MS

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environmental Management

Year: 2022

Volume: 69

Pages: 31-44

Print publication date: 01/01/2022

Online publication date: 11/10/2021

Acceptance date: 25/09/2021

Date deposited: 11/10/2021

ISSN (print): 0364-152X

ISSN (electronic): 1432-1009

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s00267-021-01546-y


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