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Impacts of organic and conventional dairy farmer attitude, behaviour and knowledge on farm biodiversity in Ireland

Power, Eileen F.; Kelly, Daniel L. and Stout, Jane C. (2013) Impacts of organic and conventional dairy farmer attitude, behaviour and knowledge on farm biodiversity in Ireland. Journal of Nature Conservation, 21 (5), pp. 272-278.

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Online at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1617138113000204


Agricultural intensification has caused significant declines in biodiversity. Agri-environmental schemes (AES), including organic farming, are thought to benefit biodiversity. However, under similar production conditions and in comparable locations and schemes, farms are not managed in the same way, with variable consequences for production and the environment. Understanding farmer attitude, behaviour and knowledge of the environment and their impacts on biodiversity may help us understand the variable impacts of AES on biodiversity. We combined a sociological survey of nine organic and eight conventional dairy farmers (measuring environmental and achievement attitudes; environmental and production-orientated behaviours and environmental knowledge), in Ireland, with a biodiversity (using plant richness as an indicator) assessment of their farms. We found higher plant richness on organic farms than conventional. Organic and conventional farmers had similar attitudes to farming achievement and the environment but organic farmers were better informed about environmental issues and carried out more environmentally orientated behaviours. Biodiversity was positively related to the amount of environmentally orientated behaviours and negatively related to production-orientated behaviours carried out on farms. Organic farmers who had more positive attitudes to the environment and were better informed about it had higher biodiversity on their farms compared to less positively inclined, less informed organic farmers. We show disparities between attitude and actual behaviour in relation to the environment, with organic farmers sharing similar attitudes to conventional farmers, but more prepared to inform themselves about and carry out environmentally friendly farming. Results indicate that organic farming and environmentally orientated behaviours benefit biodiversity and that there is an important link between farmer environmental attitudes and knowledge and the beneficial effects of organic farming on biodiversity. We encourage conservation orientated thinking and better environmental education among farmers, including those who already participate in an AES. This way, the benefits of the AES for the environment may be maximised.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:Achievement; Agri-environmental scheme; Grassland; Intensive agriculture; Plant diversity; Production
Subjects: Animal husbandry > Production systems > Dairy cattle
Environmental aspects > Biodiversity and ecosystem services
Research affiliation: Ireland > Trinity College Dublin (TCD)
Deposited By: Clavin, Mr Dan
ID Code:31224
Deposited On:21 Feb 2017 10:00
Last Modified:21 Feb 2017 15:00
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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