Management practices to enhance soil carbon: consulting stakeholders about credibility, salience and legitimacy
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Management practices to enhance soil carbon: consulting stakeholders about credibility, salience and legitimacy

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Abstract The carbon content of soil affects physical, biological and chemical properties of soil and is a major factor in its overall health and productivity. Maintaining soil carbon stocks and......

Abstract The carbon content of soil affects physical, biological and chemical properties of soil and is a major factor in its overall health and productivity. Maintaining soil carbon stocks and reducing carbon dioxide emissions also contributes to climate change mitigation. The majority of these functions are closely linked to the stocks and flows of soil organic carbon. There is an impetus therefore for policy makers and scientists in the agricultural context to identify agronomic and soil management practices that can increase carbon stocks and optimise carbon use (flows). This is something the scientific community is addressing.

Such developments raise the issue of communication between scientists and the farming community, particularly given the scientific complexity and uncertainty associated with understanding soil carbon in the agricultural context. This paper seeks to examine the potential gap between research and practice in the context of soil carbon management. Specifically, it presents results from interviews with representatives from the farming community in six European countries in which their views about soil carbon management were explored. This study was undertaken within the SmartSOIL project which is using modelling to identify practices that improve carbon stocks and optimise crop productivity. Analysis is situated within the framework of credibility, salience and legitimacy concepts which are pertinent to understanding boundaries between the scientific and the farming communities.

The results suggest that soil carbon management is perceived and interpreted differently on different sides of the science-practice boundary, particularly with respect to goals, context, language, timescale and scale. This has implications for salience. Perceived scientific uncertainty about the extent to which certain management practices enhance soil carbon is common amongst advisors, revealing issues of credibility. The consultation process has ensured some legitimacy in the project, by enabling feedback to scientists which will help shape the outcomes of the project and make them more suited to potential beneficiaries.

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  • 1. Management practices to enhance soil carbon: using stakeholder consultation to evaluate credibility, salience and legitimacy of information Julie Ingram & Jane Mills, CCRI
  • 2. The 11th European IFSA Symposium, Berlin 1-4 April 2014 Workshop 3.1 Soil management: facilitating on-farm mitigation and adaptation Conveners: Julie Ingram, Ana Frelih-Larsen, Jan Verhagen
  • 3. Outline • Significance of soil carbon • Management effects on soil carbon & yield • Science-practice gap – complexity • Science-practice gap – boundaries • Science-practice gap - credibility, salience legitimacy • SmartSOIL project approach, methods • Results • Conclusions
  • 4. Significance of soil carbon Soil productivity Soil health Resilience Ecosystem services Mitigation
  • 5. Significance of soil carbon • Impetus for policy makers and scientists to identify agronomic and soil management practices that can increase carbon stocks and optimise carbon use (flows) • This is the aim of SmartSOIL
  • 6. Complex interactions – management effects on soil carbon & crop growth Biological Chemical Physical Carbon stocks Carbon flows Management Health Nutrients Water Crop growth Soil type Crop yield Soil Properties Soil Functions Carbon storage Crop yield Management
  • 7. Science-practice gap - complexity • Complexity of soil carbon dynamics • Lack of consensus within the scientific community • Uncertainty - efficacy of different management practices to enhance soil carbon & yield across different soil types, scales & climatic conditions • Problematic to provide evidence of the positive effects of management practices • Heterogeneity of soil & farming systems • Science inaccessible to the lay person (modelling, language) • Context of climate change debates • Challenges in communication and implementation – science- practice gap
  • 8. 8 there is a ‘prevalence of different norms and expectations in the two communities [experts and decision makers] regarding such crucial concepts as what constitutes reliable evidence, convincing argument, procedural fairness, and appropriate characterization of uncertainty’ Cash et al. (2003, p8086) Science- action gap - concept of boundaries
  • 9. 9 Scientific information – likely to be more effective if perceived by stakeholders to be not only credible but also salient and legitimate Credible information - perceived by the users to be accurate, valid, and of high quality Salience -how relevant information is to the needs of the decision maker Legitimacy -perception that the production of information and technology has been respectful of stakeholders’ divergent values and beliefs Science- action gap – credibility, salience legitimacy
  • 10. Context - SmartSOIL project Two overall aims: • To identify farming systems and agronomic practices that result in an optimised balance between crop productivity and soil carbon sequestration. • To develop and deliver a decision support tool (DST) and guidelines to support novel approaches to different European soils and categories of beneficiaries (farmers, farm advisory and extension services, and policy makers).
  • 11. 11 Linking soil carbon & crop productivity Soil management systems in Europe DST & Guidelines Economic appraisal of soil management options Improving knowledge LTEs & new experiments Stakeholder involvement & dissemination Applying knowledge Case studies Project approach
  • 12. Case study regions 12
  • 13. 13 Farmers know their practices well. Even if you put lots of effort in to convincing them that a certain practice will be good in the long term, I think this will be fairly ineffective. You have to break down barriers between research and day-to-day practice of farmers. Adviser, Spain Results: Science- practice gap
  • 14. Legitimacy Different views, values, access Salience Not seen as relevant to farm business Credibility Perceived lack of scientific credibility Even if the scientific community come to a consensus on best practice, it is likely that the practices defined will be so far removed from current practice that they won’t implement it. Adviser Spain One of the problems is that there is so much uncertainly about C at the simplest level. It would be helpful to have consensus in scientific community first of all Researcher UK Results A German or an Austrian farmer has more access to this kind of information Adviser Hungary
  • 15. Results: Credibility Even “experts” [advisers] don’t know which practice to recommend to farmers when they ask how can I conserve the quality of soil and mitigate climate change. The communication to the farmers is not necessarily the issue, more important, agree and display some clarity on “best practice. Adviser, Spain At the advising level it is crucial to have a proof, an evidence of the effects of a practice. Adviser, Italy It is essential to simplify the information [scientific outputs]- in order to communicate a complex message to local situations. Adviser, Denmark
  • 16. • Little relevance • Farmers not convinced of cost effectiveness • No demonstrable commercial incentive- economic benefits should be prioritised • Short term production-related decisions not compatible with long term carbon management - needs to be relevant to the farmers’ timescale • Soil carbon not in farmers’/advisers’ vocabulary • Farmers don’t deal with single issues Results: Salience
  • 17. Results: Legitimacy • Stakeholder engagement reveals diverse nature of potential beneficiaries of the project outputs and the contexts they operate in – Different values, concerns, and perspectives – Different access to: PCs, broadband, access to advisers, – Different- age education, farming systems – Different contexts • Develop a range of support formats to suit different users’ needs and preferences • Continue (widen?) consultation
  • 18. Legitimacy Wider consultation Salience Reduced relevance Credibility Tainted if too many SH increased legitimacy -negative effects on wider salience re-frames the issue in a way that is irrelevant to some stakeholders ‘Credibility is hard to establish in arenas in which considerable uncertainty and scientific disagreement exists, either about facts or causal relationships’. Cash et al. (2002, p4) simplifying scientific inputs - compromises the credibility and usefulness of outputs increased legitimacy - decreases credibility -science can be seen as being ‘tainted’ if too many SH bias the process e.g. soil tillage Interaction –credibility, salience, legitimacy
  • 19. Conclusions • Soil carbon significant to policy makers and scientists but not to farming community • Science- practice gap exists • Credibility, salience and legitimacy - boundary features • Need to balance interactions © 2014 Julie Ingram. The Authors asserts their moral right to be identified as the Author of the work
  • 20. 20 • Cash D. W. et al. (2003) Knowledge systems for sustainable development. PNAS 100 (14), 8086–8091 • Ingram et al. (2013) Uptake of soil management practices and experiences with decisions support tools: Analysis of the consultation with the farming community. Deliverable 5.1 • Ingram et al. (in press) Managing Soil Organic Carbon: a Farm Perspective. Eurochoices References
  • 21. Thank you Countryside & Community Research Institute, University of Gloucestershire, UK