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Understanding and promoting adoption of conservation practices by rural landholders

D. J. Pannell A F G , G. R. Marshall B , N. Barr C F , A. Curtis D , F. Vanclay E and R. Wilkinson C F
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

B Institute for Rural Futures, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

C Department of Primary Industries, Bendigo, Vic. 3554, Australia.

D Faculty of Science and Agriculture, Charles Sturt University, Albury, NSW 2640, Australia.

E Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.

F Cooperative Research Centre for Plant-Based Management of Dryland Salinity, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

G Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 46(11) 1407-1424
Submitted: 14 February 2005  Accepted: 9 March 2006   Published: 9 October 2006


Research on the adoption of rural innovations is reviewed and interpreted through a cross-disciplinary lens to provide practical guidance for research, extension and policy relating to conservation practices. Adoption of innovations by landholders is presented as a dynamic learning process. Adoption depends on a range of personal, social, cultural and economic factors, as well as on characteristics of the innovation itself. Adoption occurs when the landholder perceives that the innovation in question will enhance the achievement of their personal goals. A range of goals is identifiable among landholders, including economic, social and environmental goals. Innovations are more likely to be adopted when they have a high ‘relative advantage’ (perceived superiority to the idea or practice that it supersedes), and when they are readily trialable (easy to test and learn about before adoption). Non-adoption or low adoption of a number of conservation practices is readily explicable in terms of their failure to provide a relative advantage (particularly in economic terms) or a range of difficulties that landholders may have in trialing them.

Additional keywords: agriculture, economics, extension, innovation, learning, natural resource management, personality, policy, psychology, social issues, sociology, trials.


The authors are grateful for the reviewer comments received, and to Amabel Fulton and Sally Marsh for their detailed and insightful suggestions. Funders who have contributed directly or indirectly to the preparation of this review include Land and Water Australia, the Australian Research Council, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Grains Research and Development Corporation, and the CRC for Plant-Based Management of Dryland Salinity.


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