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Are advisory services ‘fit for purpose’ to support sustainable soil management?

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Presentation made by Jane Mills at the BONARES Conference 2018: “Soil as a Sustainable Resource” took place on 26–28 February 2018 in Berlin.

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Are advisory services ‘fit for purpose’ to support sustainable soil management?

  1. 1. Are advisory services ‘fit for purpose’ to support sustainable soil management? A review of advisory capacity in Europe Julie Ingram and Jane Mills Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) University of Gloucestershire BONARES 2018 Conference, Berlin 28th February 2018
  2. 2. Why we are asking the question? • Influential role of advice and information at the farm level is well known • Increasing complexities of soil management associated with a range of specialised, ‘smarter’ yet sustainable systems requires qualitatively different sorts of information, advice and support. • The capacity to provide effective farm advisory services to support SSM is a key component of soil governance So timely to ask “Are advisory services ‘fit for purpose’ to support sustainable soil management?”
  3. 3. Background • Substantial literature review • SmartSOIL project (EU FP7 ) • RECARE project (EU FP7 ) • SoilCare (EU H2020 ) • SOLINSA (EU FP7) • AGRIDEMO (EU H2020)
  4. 4. Frame conditions Policy objectives Governance Socio economics Farming Systems AKS changes SSM demands • Complex concepts • Trade offs an synergies (soil functions) • Adaptation or adoption • Heterogeneous soil • Long time span • Systems approach • No single message Characteristics of Advisory systems • Extent of joined up approach • Capacity • Extension approaches • Training investment Performance Meeting complex demands for soil •Extent of support for adaptation and learning •Extent of technical expertise for adoption •Extent of credible evidence General advisory performance •Extent of cohesion/joined up advice •Extent of conflicting/synergistic advice •Extent of integration •Extent of enhanced networking •Access to F2F advisers Impact Extent of • SSM • Sustainable intensification • Informed/compet ent farmers • Water protection • Food security • Competitive farming industry Land manager decision • Learning and empowerment • Adaptation • Adoption • Farm performance Characteristics of land managers • Extent of competence, networking innovativeness • Capacity to change is it fit for purpose? Has SSM been achieved? Framework adapted from Birner et al. (2009)
  5. 5. Frame conditions Policy objectives Governance Socio economics Farming Systems AKS changes SSM demands • Complex concepts • Trade offs an synergies (soil functions) • Adaptation or adoption • Heterogeneous soil • Long time span • Systems approach • No single message Characteristics of Advisory systems • Extent of joined up approach • Capacity • Extension approaches • Training investment Performance Meeting complex demands for soil •Extent of support for adaptation and learning •Extent of technical expertise for adoption •Extent of credible evidence General advisory performance •Extent of cohesion/joined up advice •Extent of conflicting/synergistic advice •Extent of integration •Extent of enhanced networking •Access to F2F advisers Impact Extent of • SSM • Sustainable intensification • Informed/compet ent farmers • Water protection • Food security • Competitive farming industry Land manager decision • Learning and empowerment • Adaptation • Adoption • Farm performance Characteristics of land managers • Extent of competence, networking innovativeness • Capacity to change is it fit for purpose? Has SSM been achieved? Framework adapted from Birner et al. (2009)
  6. 6. Delivering Soil Advice Challenging: Complex, Dynamic and Evolving Sustainable Soil Management Demands Characteristics of Advisory Services Characteristics of Land Managers
  7. 7. Sustainable Soil Management and implications for advice 1) Sustainable soil management is part of a wider farming system management Complex Nutrient management Advice needs to integrate into existing advice and advisory programmes and avoid single issues Weed management Water management Tillage management Soil Functions
  8. 8. Attributes of Soil Management Adaptation - Not Adoption 2) Soil management is highly site and cropping system specific • Prescriptions for soil management with wide applicability unlikely • Advisory services should seek to apply principles and adapt to local situations in some situations Requires advisers to support farmer LEARNING • Advice has different requirements depending on the extent of change involved
  9. 9. Attributes of Soil Management Advisers need to be equipped to provide this evidence with research data, farmer case studies, demonstration plots • Benefits and negative impacts of soil management are not always observable and/or take a long time to become apparent. Advisers need to find and provide evidence using appropriate metrics so farmers can weigh up the risks • Providing convincing economic evidence for some soil management practices is challenging.
  10. 10. Attributes of Land Managers • No longer ‘typical farmers’ - producers, smallholders, large commercial farm managers, contractors….
  11. 11. Attributes of EU Advisory Systems • Many advisory systems across Europe have become fragmented – pluralistic agricultural advisory services providers are: Agricultural Chambers
  12. 12. Attributes of EU Advisory Service Privatization in some countries has reduced the public extension services • Free face to face advice at the farm level is often no longer available • Increasingly information and advice is provided by actors with commercial motivations or by poorly equipped/ non specialist public advisers Can be tensions between private and public sector goals
  13. 13. Attributes of EU Advisory Service Quality of services with respect to soil is highly variable. • Formal public advisory services are used primarily for accessing subsidies and complying with regulations rather than supporting productivity/sustainability • Public extension services can be poorly resourced, low capacity, with poorly trained advisers • Private sector services better trained/equipped in relation to maximising yield and specialist crop production - may not consider other soil functions or long term issues
  14. 14. Examples of Effective Activities • Farmer groups and networks emerging to fill the gaps in delivery and topics • Groups of farmers + advisers + researchers facilitated and supported to explore ways of enhancing soil productivity and sustainability • Integrated approaches - mandatory measures and incentives with advice to support voluntary adoption of soil protection measure
  15. 15. Are Advisory Systems ‘Fit for Purpose’? • Governance - better policy integration, better resourced public services, more partnerships • Identify good practice examples and see how these can be scaled up – e.g. Operational Groups • Advisers need more technical expertise in soils • More facilitation -requires different adviser skills • Recognise that different intermediaries and knowledge brokers are now active - foster these • Better communication between advisers and researchers to acquire and translate evidence
  16. 16. Any Questions? Thank You…. jmills@glos.ac.uk jingram@glos.ac.uk www.recare-project.eu @RECARE_EU www.soilcare-project.eu @SoilCare_EU

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