Rethinking adaptive capacity: A study of Midwestern U.S. corn farmers
Global climate change is one of the most significant challenges facing agriculture and society in the 21st century. In the Midwest, the projected trend toward more extreme rainfall has meant that farm-level responses are needed to maintain or increase crop yield and reduce soil erosion. On a local level, farmers are at the forefront of responding to environmental change. Thus, it is critical to understand their ability to take suitable actions for reducing risks and transforming agriculture to a more resilient system. Adaptive capacity is a term that is often used to describe farmers’ ability to access financial and technical resources. Although these are important attributes of farmers’ capacity, scholarship on human behavior has identified socio-cultural factors, such as perceived risk and capacity as strong predictors of farmers’ decision making. Therefore, our understanding of farmers’ true capacities is limited by our inability to comprehensively understand social and behavioral factors that influence their decisions to ignore, cope or adapt to climate change-related risks. In this dissertation, I attempt to address this gap by integrating social and behavioral theoretical frameworks and statistical modeling approaches to assess how variations in institutional and environmental conditions can influence farmers’ adaptive capacity and their decision to use adaptive management practices.