Kicking the Habit: What Makes and Breaks Farmers' Intentions to Reduce Pesticide Use?

Bakker, L.; Werf, W. van der; Sok, J.; Bianchi, F.J.J.A.


There is a growing concern in society about the continuing intensive usage of pesticides in farming and its effects on environmental and human health. Insight in the intentions of farmers to reduce pesticide use may help identify pathways towards farming systems with reduced environmental impacts. We used the Reasoned Action Approach to identify which social-psychological constructs determine farmers' intentions to decrease pesticide use. We analysed 681 responses to an online survey to assess which constructs drive intention, and identified which beliefs pose barriers and drive the motivation of farmers to decrease pesticide use. Our results show that the intention to reduce pesticide use is strongly determined by whether other farmers also act. Furthermore, farmers perceive limited capacity and autonomy to reduce pesticide use, and motivations to reduce pesticide use were based on environmental considerations. Finally, decreasing pesticide use was considered risky, but the relative importance of risk attitude was offset by the environmental considerations of farmers. This indicates that farmers need successful examples of how to decrease pesticide use, either via exchange with peer farmers or knowledge provisioning on alternative pest control methods. These insights may be useful to direct policy making to influence farmers' intentions to decrease pesticide use.