A call to focus on farmer intuition for improved management decision making

Saskia Von Diest, Julia Wright, Michael J Samways, Henk Kieft

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)
    114 Downloads (Pure)


    Mainstream agricultural research takes a rational approach to generate, empirical, tangible knowledge for increased yields and sustainability. This approach has led to the development of technological tools to support farmers in their management decision-making, which, while helpful, are not able to factor in the complex, dynamic variables that motivate farmer decision-making. More importantly, farmers often do not adopt these tools as expected.
    Could a solution lie in considering other sources and types of agricultural knowledge? Some farmers report relying largely on intuition (knowing from within) to inform their practical management decisions, resulting in both qualitative and quantitative benefits. Intuition allows access to valuable tacit (informal, intangible) knowledge, which can be used to explore and apply more resilient agricultural practices. It is an immediate and valuable part of decision-making, and deserves more attention from both farmers and researchers. This paper discusses potential advantages, challenges to, and methods of mainstreaming farmer intuition, and presents appropriate methodologies for its development, emphasizing the need to expand the underlying ontology and epistemology of the mainstream scientific community.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number956665
    Pages (from-to)278-285
    Number of pages8
    JournalOutlook on Agriculture
    Issue number4
    Early online date10 Sept 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

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    This document is the author’s post-print version, incorporating any revisions agreed during the peer-review process. Some differences between the published version and this version
    may remain and you are advised to consult the published version if you wish to cite from it.


    Department of Science and Technology [grant number 81789/2012], the National Research Foundation [grant number 95435] of South Africa


    • Farmer decision-making
    • farm management
    • tacit knowledge
    • holistic decisions
    • resilient farming systems

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Animal Science and Zoology
    • Agronomy and Crop Science
    • Ecology


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