Improving Farm Practices and Evaluating Livestock Farmers’ Attitudes to Greenhouse Gas Emission Mitigation

  • Sara Burbi

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    In recent years the farming sector has been under growing pressure. Markets influence demand and prices, challenging farmers to improve production, business competitiveness
    and reduce environmental impact. Agriculture accounts for 9% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the United Kingdom. Quantitative scientific literature provides useful strategies to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions from livestock farms. Their adoption may depend on their effectiveness and the influence of farmers’ perceptions of climate change on their decision- making. Adopting concepts of translational research and participatory action research, the study builds social capital among 14 livestock farmers in the South West and West Midlands, and evaluates the potential for adoption of emission mitigation strategies. The Rapid Farm Practices Appraisal (RFPA) tool was created to assess farm practices based on their mitigation potential. Practices were assessed twice over 6-9 months. Semi-structured interviews were used to assess barriers and opportunities to farmer engagement and on-farm innovation. Farmers were invited to a focus group meeting to network with other farmers and engage with researchers. All farmers participated in the 2 farm assessments. Only half the farmers adopted changes in farm management. The main difficulties related to the storage and treatment of manures due to the financial investments necessary. All farmers appreciated the RFPA tool, the clearness
    of the information provided and the focus of the tool on practices directly. All farmers accepted to be interviewed during the second farm visit; however, 2 farmers were unable to participate in the focus group meeting. Farmers’ main obstacles to innovation were
    limited financial capital, lack of trust in government action and confusion over the effectiveness of farm advice on mitigation. The lack of long-term flexibility of agricultural policies greatly influenced farmers’ decision-making. Farmers preferred practical solutions obtained through consistent, clear and transparent advisory services. The source of information greatly influenced their acceptance of advice. Farmers preferred peer-to-peer
    knowledge sharing and participatory activities in order to access knowledge on mitigation directly from scientists. Results provide positive grounds for the expansion of the RFPA tool to include economic assessment of farm practices and the engagement of a larger pool of farmers. Further research is needed in order to better understand how the source of information influences farmers’ acceptance of climate change science. Further studies should include a comparison between different farming systems i.e. organic v conventional, small-scale v large-scale.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorJohn S. Conway (Supervisor) & Richard N Baines (Supervisor)


    • greenhouse gases
    • participatory action research
    • translational research
    • sustainable farming systems

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