AgriLink The role of advice in the adoption process of non-inverse tillage on clay soils. - AgriLink

The role of advice in the adoption process of non-inverse tillage on clay soils.

Netherlands, Flevoland, Zeeland and West-Noord-Brabant

The regions which are included in this case study are Flevoland, Zeeland and West-Noord-Brabant in the Netherlands. The regions Zeeland and West-Noord-Brabant are very similar according to agriculture. It’s soil is a clay soil with mostly (for Dutch terms) big farms. Also in the Flevoland region the soil is a clay soil. The most general crops which are grown in these 3 regions are potatoes, sugar beets, cereals and onions. The size of the farms differ from 30 to 325 ha with an average of 115 ha.

Region map.

In these regions soil compaction is increasing, which leads to bad soil structures. This is mostly due to the fact that machines are getting heavier and actions cannot always be done in the ideal circumstances. This has in the end an effect on the crops. Especially in seasons with extreme weather conditions the effect is visible. Therefore, some farmers have switched to non-inverse tillage. In these regions the switch to non-inverse tillage is not because of soil-erosion like in some sandy regions of the Netherlands, but solely for the purpose of improving soil structure.

Study focus

This study focusses on the role of advice in the adoption of non-inverse tillage as a measure for soil improvement in the Netherlands. In non-inverse tillage the soil is not tilled therefore the soil-life is able to develop itself without being interrupted or destroyed. This would create a better soil structure which would result in a more robust soil.

Non inverse tillage is an innovation that impacts the farming system in a profound way. It requires new knowledge, new techniques and a new perspective on farming.  In the Netherlands there are only a few farmers applying non-inverse tillage just to improve their soil structure and soil-life. In the case study 9 adopters, 13 non-adopters and 1 dropper of non-inverse soil tillage were interviewed.

The general micro-AKIS of a farmer predominantly consists of contact with other farmers and advisors. The contact with other farmers could consist of a study group or direct contact with befriended or neighbouring farmers. At 16 of these 23 farms advise is provided by an independent. Additionally also dependent advisors for example suppliers or traders visit the farm and provide advice. All farmers are satisfied about their general micro-AKIS. If they would not be satisfied, it would be easy to go to another advisor in most cases.


Full report is available here.

Partner and responsible person contact

Wageningen Research

Koen Klompe,

Wageningen Research (WR) Field Crops has vast experience in conducting applied research in agriculture together with other research organizations, farmers and advisory providers. Since 2009 WR Field Crops has been conducting a field trial on non-inverse tillage.

Lessons learned
1 One independent advisor who is specialized in non-inverse tillage played a crucial role in this innovation process.
Additionally observing and discussing the experiences from other farmers helped raise the interest in non-inverse-tillage and the decision whether to adopt the practice. Study groups facilitated this exchange by allowing farmers to see how other farmers apply non-inverse tillage.
2 Most farmers assessed the innovation quite soon after they heard of it.
For the assessment of non-inverse tillage most farmers with a serious interest first tried it on a small part of the farm. If it was encountered positive they expand it to the rest of the farm. In the assessment the farmers observe the improving soil quality, the weed pressure, the effect on yield and experience how to destroy the green manure without ploughings. Sometimes the advisor helped with the assessment, but mostly the farmer trusts the own experience.
3 The implementation phase takes a few years.
Once decided to adopt the practice, the implementation phase takes a few years because the soil needs to adapt to the new system. In these years the farmers also learn how to cultivate the soil in the best way to still grow good quality crops. For most farmers, the advisor is important in this learning process. This learning process does not have a clear end, almost all adopters mentioned that they would continue to fine tune the system.
4 There is quite some variability in the advisors role.
Though advisors play a role in the adoption processes of non-inverse tillage, there is quite some variability in this role. Some farmers depend more on their own wisdom and knowledge in finding their way forward, where others strongly depend on the specialist advisor.
5 Aadopters and non-adopters are influenced by the experiences of fellow farmers.
Interesting enough, both groups, adopters and non-adopters, are influenced by the experiences of fellow farmers. This influence can support or hinder the adoption depending how they evaluate the practice. It is both the occurrence of advantages and disadvantages of the practice on the specific farms and the value given to these results that explains the difference between adopters and non-adopters. To inspire and support more farmers to apply the innovation it would be good to support the development of non-inverse tillage expertise among more advisors and share the positive experiences among farmers.

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