Complex dynamics in the uptake of new farming practices: a case study for organic waste application

Groeneveld, Anouschka; Bakker, Martha; Peerlings, Jack; Heijman, Wim


Adverse environmental effects of intensive agriculture, together with scarcity in phosphates and water, urge farmers to find more sustainable practices. An example of such a sustainable practice is on-farm processing of organic waste. This paper explores three mechanisms that can lead to a widespread uptake of this technique: (1) economies of scale, (2) information sharing, and (3) adjustment of social norms. Although each of these mechanisms has been studied before, this paper provides new insights by considering the interactions that might exist between the different mechanisms when they are applied to real-life situations. Based on a pilot study, we developed a multi-criteria mathematical programming model at individual farm level. We used this model to simulate the uptake of on-farm processing of organic waste, as a result of the three mechanisms and their interactions. Our results show that each mechanism results in an increased uptake, but is not likely to cause a widespread uptake. Interaction between the mechanisms, will lead to a much higher uptake. This result suggests that simultaneous consideration of multiple mechanisms is essential to understand the behaviour of social–ecological systems.