Sociological factors influencing the decisions of Iowa farmers to adopt needed soil conservation practices

Wagener, Donald
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Sociology and Anthropology

Public concern about soil erosion has increased in recent years. It is now a high-priority issue among rural and urban residents alike. Given the seriousness of soil erosion, both nationally and in Iowa, the question can be posed as to why many farmers have failed to adopt needed soil conservation measures. The present study examines some sociological factors that are of presumed importance for the speed with which farmers adopt needed soil conservation practices;Findings are presented in four interrelated papers. The first paper examined the "Cancian thesis," which poses a challenge to previous findings on the relationship between socioeconomic rank and innovation. Findings suggest that the predicted positive-linear relationship between rank and adoption is not supported at the earliest stage of conservation adoptions. Only in the second stage did the predicted positive relationship emerge with clarity;The second paper examined the effects of different measures of socioeconomic rank on adoption behavior. The findings failed to support the argument that varying measures of socioeconomic variables are important to farmers' adoptions of conservation practices;The third paper tested the importance of a diverse set of sociological and ecological factors that seemingly influence adoption of agricultural innovations. The posited importance of the ecological factors was not supported. These, along with personal factors, explained the least amount of variance in the conservation adoption measures;The fourth paper identified several sets of socioeconomic and social-psychological variables that have repeatedly been used in adoption studies. A causal model for explaining soil conservation innovations was developed and tested. A parsimonious model of conservation behavior was evolved from a large number of predictor variables. The findings lent support to model trimming procedures that reduce the large number of explanators of innovations to a smaller number of causal factors.