Farmers' behaviour towards soils in Europe: values and practices

Par Morgane Hervé (Ecobio)

Soils provide a wide range of ecological, economic, social functions, and many of them depend on soil biota. A human activity such as agriculture profits from these functions but some practices widely spread threaten soil biodiversity. In the context of the Biodiversa program “SoilMan”, we investigated to what extent and how farmers include soil biodiversity into their soil management. Following the environmental pragmatism theory developed by John Dewey, we used farmers’ description and explanation of their management decisions. We identified the values that emerged in their discourse, focusing on soils and soil biodiversity. Assuming the existence of values plurality, we assigned these values to different categories. We used existing literature in order to get first insights on values underlying farmers’ management decisions. We also conducted five exploratory focus groups, one per country in Germany, Spain, France, Romania and Sweden. According to the traditional literature on farmers’ behavior, we found a diversity of values expressed by farmers towards soil ecosystems when considering their management strategy. Instrumental values were of main importance. However our results suggest that other values can influence farmers’ management choices, in relation with their well-being, their independence from advisory institutions or biodiversity protection for itself. Potential regional differences still in need to be assessed in order to enrich the understanding of soil and soil biodiversity values. While there is a clear lack of global coherent soil conservation policy at the European scale, such a knowledge could participate to define more acceptable measures for soil protection at farmers’ scale.

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