Constraints to the adoption of innovations in agricultural research and environmental management: a review


Published on

There are several constraints to the
adoption of technologies and innovations by Australian
farmers. Here an attempt has been made to define the
major constraints to adoption. These are identified as: the
extent to which the farmer finds the new technology
complex and difficult to comprehend; how readily
observable the outcomes of an adoption are; its financial
cost; the farmer's beliefs and opinions towards the
technology; the farmer's level of motivation; the farmer's
perception of the relevance of the new technology; and
the farmer's attitudes towards risk and change. The classical adoption-diffusion model and
subsequent modifications are discussed. In particular,
issues relating to the participatory action research
(PAR) approach are raised and discussed. In addition,
methodologies in extension research are briefly
discussed and the roles of extension personnel and
agricultural scientists in the technology adoption
process are examined.

The adoption of innovations in natural resource
management is discussed and the findings indicate that
this is an area of agriculture in which extension practice
and research will play an increasingly important role in
the future. Recommendations for further research into
adoption of technological innovations in resource
management and agriculture are made.

Published in: Business, Technology
1 Like
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Constraints to the adoption of innovations in agricultural research and environmental management: a review

  1. 1. Australian Journal of ExperimentalAgriculture, 1994,34,549-71 Constraints to the adoption of innovations in agricultural research and environmental management: a review L. J.~ u e r i n ~and T. F. Guerin BC A Innovation Assessment and Research,PO Box 462, World Trade Centre,Melbourne,Vic. 3005,Australia. Minenco Bioremediation Services,1Research Avenue, Bundoora,Vic. 3083, Australia. Author to whom reprint requests should be addressed. Summary. There are several constraints to the adoption of technologies and innovations by Australian farmers. Here an attempt has been made to define the major constraintsto adoption. These are identified as: the extent to which the farmer finds the new technology complex and difficult to comprehend; how readily observable the outcomes of an adoption are; its financial cost; the farmer's beliefs and opinions towards the technology; the farmer's level of motivation; the farmer's perception of the relevance of the new technology; and the farmer's attitudestowards risk and change. The classical adoption-diffusion model and subsequent modifications are discussed. In particular, issues relating to the participatory action research (PAR) approach are raised and discussed. In addition, methodologies in extension research are briefly discussed and the roles of extension personnel and agricultural scientists in the technology adoption process are examined. The adoption of innovations in natural resource management is discussed and the findings indicate that this is an area of agriculture in which extension practice and research will play an increasingly important role in the future. Recommendations for further research into adoption of technological innovations in resource management and agriculture are made. Introduction Agricultural practice in Australia has changed from the production (or volume) orientation of the early part of this century, through productivity- or efficiency- based agriculture of the 1960s,to the current philosophy of sustainability. Timely adoption of relevant technologies and innovations by the farming community has been critical for improving agricultural productivity in Australia (Campbell 1980) during each of these eras. Typically the important participants in this process have been federal and state governments and industry (Campbell 1980) and, more recently, research institutions (Steinke 1991). The problem of non- adoption is common around the world, and much research in this field has been carried out in developing countries, where the need for very basic agricultural technologies is great (Sethu-Rao and Bhaskaran 1978; Swindale 1979; Arcia 1980; DeKlerk 1980; Itharat 1980; Singh and Ray 1980; Siddaramaiah and Jalihal 1982; Bangura 1983; Jones 1986; Koons 1987; Jameel 1988; Lee 1988; Oakley 1988; Albrecht et al. 1989; Chambers et al. 1989; Fuglie 1989; Ojiambo 1989; Uehara 1989). Much research has also been conducted on non-adoption in Australia (e.g. Fallding 1957; Davidson and Martin 1965; Tully 1966; Davidson et al. 1967; Hawkins et al. 1974; Anderson 1979, 1981; Salmon I981; Anderson 1982; Bardsley 1982; Macadam and Bawden (1985); Vere and Muir 1986; Martin et al. 1988; Lees 1991;Barr and Cary 1992b; Campbell 1992). Various aspects of this research have been reviewed by Chamala (1987), Russell et al. (1989), McKenzie (1990), Sinden and King (1990), Anon. (1992), Campbell and Junor (1992), Cary (1992), Frank and Chamala (1992), Southwood (l992), and Vanclay (1992a, 1992b). This review further examines the various constraints limiting the adoption of agricultural technologies by farmers in Australia. Key findings of Australian researchers are evaluated, which draw upon work conducted in a range of agricultural enterprises. Aspects of this problem that have been researched in other countries are considered where deemed relevant to technology adoption in Australia. However, our conclusions are drawn primarily from Australian studies. We aim to identify the constraints to adoption that are relevant to Australian farmers, and to highlight areas for future research. In addition, this review defines and
  2. 2. L. J. Guerin and T. F. Guerin Table 1. Some classic examples of technological innovations in Australian agriculture (from Campbell 1980) Innovation Benefits of innovation Introduction of Cactohlastus cactorizrnl Introduction of Myxomatosis virus Introduction of disease-resistant wheat cultivars Introduction of Bos indicus cattle Introduction of Merino sheep Subterranean clover and superphosphate Regional quarantine and systematic immunisation of livestock Improved livestock fecundity Introduction of trace elements into fertiliser applications Control of prickly pear Control of rabbits Control of wheat rusts and other diseases in wheat Increased productivity through improved pest resistance in northern Australian cattle herds Increased wool production and quality Improved livestock carrying capacity Control of disseases in cattle, including tuberculosis, brucellosis and pleuropneumonia Improvement of the reproductive efficiency of sheep and cattle Improved yields in element-deficient soils evaluates the classical adoption-diffusion model and the more recent approaches to technology transfer. Defining technological innovation and the transfer process An innovation is an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or another unit of adoption (Rogers 1983). Whether or not an idea, practice or object is objectively new, as measured from the time of its first discovery, is of little concern. If an idea is new to an individual or other potential adopting body, it is an innovation (Rogers 1983). A technological innovation consists of both the idea component and the object component (Rogers and Shoemaker 1971). A technology or innovation may take the form of a new piece of machinery, a new method for soil cultivation or advice not to cultivate, the recommendation to sow a new cultivar which has improved agronomic properties over one previously grown, or the provision of information on the fate of a commonly used insecticide, such as details of its ecotoxicity and degradation rate in soil (Guerin and Kennedy 1991h). Value adding may also be considered a technological innovation. Walcott and Adams (1992) have indicated that improved productivity may be achieved by breeding added value to farm crops and livestock. This type of value adding may include the growing of crop cultivars that have reduced pest or disease susceptibility, and which, therefore, require less input (in the form of agricultural chemicals) to produce the same amount of product, resulting in higher productivity and profitability. Campbell (1980) described some of the more notable examples of classic innovations and technologies adopted by the Australian farming community (Table 1). Technology transfer is the process of moving scientific and technical knowledge, ideas, services, inventions and products from the origin of their development to where they can be put into operation. Technology adoption is the implementation of this already transferred knowledge about a technological innovation, and is the end product of the technology transfer process (Rogers 1983). Implicit in transfer is the notion of a process, and implicit in the transfer of technology is the transfer of knowledge. The innovation-decision process Rather than thinking of adoptions of innovations as events which occur in some specific time-frame or as processes which, once completed, are never to be repeated, it is preferable to think of an innovation- decision process. This process continues as long as the innovation remains viable. Crucial to the diffusion of new ideas is the innovation itself, communication, and time (Rogers and Shoemaker 1971). Four stages in the innovation-decision process of the individual have been identified by Rogers and Shoemaker (1971). The first is the knowledge phase in which the individual becomes exposed to the new idea and develops some understanding of it. The second is persuasion, during which individuals either persuade themselves, or are open to persuasion by others. At this stage too, an attitude towards the innovation evolves. The third stage is decision, when the farmer decides to accept or reject the idea. Finally, there is confirmation, in which the individual continues to question the wisdom of their decision once the decision to adopt the innovation has been made. However, it is also useful to recognise latent adoption, which may occur when farmers decide to adopt but are prevented from doing so because of various circumstances on the farm (Vanclay 1992a, 1992b). Chamala (1987), from a land management perspective, suggested a similar model to explain the adoption process, which incorporates the model of Rogers and Shoemaker (1971) and Rogers (1983).
  3. 3. Constraintsto the adoption of agricultural and environmental innovations 55 1 However, in Chamala's model there are crucial stages where the potential adopter may discontinue the adoption process. An example of this discontinuation, or 'dis-adoption', is highlighted in research conducted by Cary et al. (1989). These researchers showed that for every 2 farmers in northeast Victoria who had successfully adopted conservation tillage practices, there was 1 farmer who had abandoned it. Those farmers who had given up the practice believed their soil was unsuitable because with direct drilling, the soil crusted over in the top layers. Because fewer wheat seedlings broke through, early growth was poor and yields were lower. The farmers who experienced these particular problems believed cultivation was necessary to provide a permeable seedbed. It is, therefore, not sufficient for extension personnel to have simply given information or even created an interest in a new technology -they must follow through the entire adoption-decision process to ensure that adoption is maintained. Goss (1979) has criticised Rogers and Shoemaker's (1971) classical diffusion model on its lack of applicability to a cross-cultural context. However, this limitation does not constrain our use of the diffusion theory as a valuable contribution and useful model for the analysis of the adoption of agricultural innovations in Australia. Other conceptual models of adoption, such as that of Sinden and King (1990), vary in their details but most recognise a multistage decision process, which is the most important factor in the extrapolation of the classical model. Participatory action research (PAR), complements the traditional adoption-diffusion model of Rogers (1983) (Campbell and Junor 1992). This approach to technology development and transfer, and its significance to extension in Australia in the future, is dealt with later in this review. Both PAR and the classical diffusion approaches are valuable in looking at such a complex phenomenon as the transfer of innovations in agriculture and environmental management. Malik (1991), in a review of technology transfer models, argued that none of the approaches to extension individually satisfy all situations in need of technology transfer. Other limitations of the classical diffusion model have been described by Vanclay (1992a, 1992b). He indicated that adoption does not necessarily follow the suggested stages from awareness through to knowledge, trial and then adoption, because it is not always possible to trial the new technology. For example, the new technology may be new management plans for the farm, and thus require adoption in a single step. Vanclay (1992) saw the classical model as assuming that awareness and knowledge will always filter through to all sections of the farming community. However, this is not what the classical model postulates. The classical model argues that even the concept of innovation is subjective. What may be a novel idea or technology to one farmer may not be to another farmer (Rogers 1983). Thus it would seem that the stages are also dealt with in an individual manner and-that individual farmers do not reach the same stages at the same times. The informationflow process Farmers are not a passive part of the technology flow process; it is the purpose of the extensionpersonnelto help farmers help themselves. The key agents in this process are the field staff, who receive support from scientists and other technical experts in universities and research institutes. Field staff are in constant contact with farmers, particularly the leaders of farming communities. It is implicit in the classical adoption-diffusion model that contact has to be dynamic, and the flow of information must be 2-way; that is, from farmers, about what information they most need, and from institutions where the new technology originates. The 2 parties can then interact meaningfully, enabling technology dissemination to become oriented towards real farm problems (Lee 1988). Rogers (1983) stated that communication is a 2-way process of convergence, rather than 1-way, where one individual seeks to transfer a message to another. Thus he described the convergencemodel, in which there is a 2-way flow of information and where participants create and share information with one another. The multifactorial problem of technology adoption From the wide range of studies carried out in agricultural extension, the problem of non-adoption is multifactorial. For different enterprises and for different technologies or innovations, different constraints apply. The individual factors that affect adoption fall into 2 broad categories. The first puts the emphasis on the farmer and consists of factors such as personality, education level, and degree of motivation. The second emphasises the characteristics of the technology itself and the social and economic environment of the farmer, for example, how labour-intensive the new technology is, or how much it costs. These aspects are discussed in the following sections. Constraints inherent in thefarmer and thefarm Post World War 2. the needs of farmers tended to focus on practicalities, new technologies and innovations (Campbell 1980; Davidson 1981; Clowes 1990). These needs included the introduction of new animal breeds, new tillage equipment and new crop varieties, to increase production and productivity. More recently, these needs have become more specialised (Clowes 1990), focusing on, for example, artificial breeding of animals, integrated pest management systems, minimum- and zero-tillage approaches to cropping, and computer management systems. Not all farmers adopt all the technological innovations related to farm production that are available
  4. 4. 552 L. J. Guerin and T. F. Guerin to them. Farmers tend to select from the package of practices developed by scientists, those that are consistent with their needs, socioeconomic status and attitudes toward different practices (Chamala 1987). Farmers have to make many decisions during the agricultural production cycle, keeping potential problems and alternate solutions in view. Some of these decisions are for immediate survival, while others are made in view of anticipated long-term benefits (Chamala 1987). The adoption of commercial innovations for immediate survival and viability, and concerns for the conservation of resources in the long term, are therefore 2 important aspects of management decision-making in Australian farming (Chamala 1987). Itharat (1980) proposed that farmers who are older, have more years of farming experience and who have a larger amount of land used for agricultural production, are more innovative. An Australian study by Anderson (1982) has shown that the optimum age of 40-50 years correlates well with the 'progressive farmer'. However, in a study by Warner (1981) on the adoption of conservation practices in east-central Illinois, he found that adopters tended to be relatively young, have farmed for fewer years and have smaller areas of land. Adopters of land management practices in Australia were younger than the mean age of the farmers surveyed in a recent study reviewed by Campbell and Junor (1992). From these studies it appears that there is no clear correlation between farmers' age and rate of adoption. They do, however, suggest that experience may positively influence the decision to adopt particular practices. Chudleigh (1984) indicated that the fact that many crops are grown in locations unsuited to their production is due to a lack of formal education in the farming community about the fundamentals of crop production and management. He also suggested that many producers, either through ignorance or stubbornness, do not use the extension services provided, or make themselves familiar with the requirements of certain crops. Fuglie (1989) found that early adopterstended to be farmers with above- average education, access to institutional credit and below-average farm size. In an Indian study, Sen (1983) also found that farmersmanaging small and medium-sized properties, were the most innovative. Itharat (1980) found that level of education was not a significant factor in the innovativeness of the farmer, nor was land ownership status or farm income. In his study across 3 Australian states, Anderson (1982) has shown that one characteristic of progressive farmers was the possession of larger holdings, with their properties being 22% larger than the average farm. In relation to soil conservation practices, it can be inferred that property location and property size can affect goal setting,which in turn are positively related to the adoptionof innovations (Chamala 1987). Family factors probably have an effect on the goals set by the farmer and, therefore, on their adoption of innovations (Charnala 1987). These factors include the age of the children, and the number of generations of family ownership. However, further work is required to determine the influenceof these factors on the rate of adoption. Sinden and King (1990) studied soil conservation measures in Manilla Shire, New South Wales, and noted 5 variables that differentiated between farmers who had, and farmers who had not, adopted soil conservation measures. These were farm size, perception of the general problem of erosion, pursuit of double cropping, income and level of education. They found that increases in each correlated with the likelihood of adoption. In a study reviewed by Campbell and Junor (1992), adopters of improved or new land management practices had higher levels of debt, and farm cash incomes that were higher than average. This suggests that farmers who adopt new technologies are more willing to take financial risks. Psychological constraintsinfluencing the decision process Itharat (1980) and Lobel (1987) suggested predisposing aspects of personality as a key factor in resistance to adoption. Singh and Ray (1980) found that better motivated and more intelligent farmers made the greatest financial progress on their properties. However, we believe that financial progress is not an adequate measure of technology adoption. De Klerk (1980) found that the level of aspiration of the farmer will also influence the adoption of technology. Farmer's attitudes are also important when examining the psychological constraints on adoption. Some important attitudinal variables that have been identified are attitudes of the farmer towards farming, expectation of the economic future of farming, perception of the gravity of the problem that the technology is aiming to address, attitudes toward risk and towards the technology. If an extension officer suggests to farmers that a particular technology or agricultural technique could improve productivity, yet is unable to explain how much the technology will cost, how to use it, and what benefits can be expected from its use, one can predict that conservative attitudes will predominate, and a decision based on avoiding risk will be taken not to adopt the technology (Jedlicka 1979). Agriculture nearly always involves a considerable degree of risk, and this may assume major dimensions when a new practice is being contemplated (Hawkins et al. 1982). The risk perceived by the primary producer about the technology in question is an important factor in the adoption process (Hawkins et al. 1982; Lobel 1987). If a person or a group of people do not understand the nature of the risks involved with a new venture they may be considering, it is more likely that they will be resistant to change (Jedlicka 1979). People are more likely to take a calculated risk if they
  5. 5. Constraintsto the adoptionof agriculturaland environmental innovations 553 understand the circumstances associated with that risk and can compare the new alternative with the old technology, and consequently determine that the new alternative is better (Jedlicka 1979).Ongaro (1988) also confirmed that a perception of risk leading to a farmer's uncertainty is an important factor in the adoption of new technology. Hawkins et al. (1982) also suggested that it is important to appreciate the pervasiveness of risk in most forms of agriculture, and particularly small-scale farming. Attitudes to risk are subjective and will, therefore, vary between individuals. Individual farmers typically will reduce the risk by choosing reliable enterprises for their own particular geographic and climatic location. Vanclay (1992) pointed out that risk is greater for environmental innovations than for commercial innovations because with both, the risk includes the capital resources expended and the yield for that season. However, with environmental innovations, risk also includes the production for future seasons if the environmental degradation is not stopped. On the other hand, research conducted by Fuglie (1989) found that attitudes toward risk taking did not have a significant effect on the decision to adopt. Bangura (1983) found that the best predictor of adoption was the farmer's individual goals in farming, whereas a weak relationship was found between farmer motivation and adoption. Farmer motivation was determined by the farmer's socioeconomic status and economic constraints (Bangura 1983). Sinden and King (1990) noted that any model of the adoption process must include the motivations of the farmer. These researchers highlighted the income and capital gains motive in particular, and suggested that the stewardship motive of passing on to future generations a fully productive resource may also be of importance to many landholders. Beliefs, values and fears are all factors that affect farmer's attitudes. Chamala (1987) defined beliefs as "the knowledge and information that a person assumes to be true about the environment". Since beliefs underlie attitudes towards various practices, it is expected that particular practices will be difficult to change. Chamala (1987) defined values as general feelings about what is desirable or undesirable. They give "order and direction to the ever-flowing stream of human acts and thoughts7' (Chamala 1987). Lobe1 (1987) suggested that farmers may perceive a lack of personal control over agricultural production. Thus, bad experiences in the past are causing farmers to reject new technology indiscriminately in the present. We suggest that this emotional response is akin to the psychological phenomenon of 'learned helplessness'. This phenomenon of learned helplessness has played a major role in the understanding of the most fundamental aspects of behavioural conditioning (Schwarz 1989). For example, in some farmers there seems to exist a learned helplessness effect where the adoption of technology by farmers in the past may not have made any difference to their particular farming practices. Thus, farmers have learnt that their adoption behaviour does not matter and that nothing they do makes a difference to the level of production on their own farms. In addition, resources committed to a new enterprise often represent a large portion of the farmer's cash reserve, and the loss of such a cash reserve may also inhibit further attempts at innovation (Hawkins et al. 1982). A farmer's attitude to change is one of the main catalysts for the adoption of an innovation (Chamala 1987). Negative attitudes isolate the individual from information that is considered inconsistent with beliefs, values, and needs. Conversely, positive attitudes prompt an individual to seek new ideas and information. Changing one's behaviour is often unpleasant and it is often easier to change perception and judgement instead (Albrecht et al. 1989). It is well documented that individuals tend to change their attitudes so that they become consistent with their actions (Mook 1987). Assuming that people have a need for security and a feeling of wellbeing, it is to be expected that information that creates too much uncertainty will not pass through the process of perception without some adjustment. Even though a state of inner tension is necessary for action, only a certain degree of tension is acceptable or bearable. What has been called 'cognitive dissonance' describes this situation where elements in thinking and perception are in conflict and form a state of discord (Mook 1987). Hawkins et al. (1982) also noted this psychological discomfort and unpleasantness of inconsistent or unbalanced mental states in relation to the adoption of new technologies. There are 2 major schools of thought as to the best methods to achieve attitude change (Salmon 1981). These are the approaches held by learning theorists and cognitive theorists. The latter approach, which is taken by Salmon, suggests examination by the farmer of present attitudes and the ways they might be hindering their goals. Cognitive theories see the farmer as an active participant in the exploration of their attitudes and subsequent conscious decision making to modify these attitudes. However, with learning theory approaches, the farmer is viewed as a passive recipient whose behaviour can be manipulated by skillful control of the environment (Salmon 1981). Instead, Salmon argued that farmers are basically self-directed learners who seek out knowledge which is most relevant to their current needs and problems, and integrate it into their own frame of reference. In order for farmers to adopt new technology, Diallo (1983) suggested that farmers need to have an
  6. 6. 554 L. J. Guerin and T. F. Guerin understanding of, and belief in, the technology. In research conducted by Siddaramaiah and Jalihal (1982), farmers to whom the 'oral advancers' or extension workers, had already gone had increased recall and comprehension. However, we maintain that recall and comprehension is not an adequate measure in evaluating whether or not the technology is adopted. Nevertheless, De Klerk (1980) found that perception of the new technology was a precursor to- adoption, followed by aspirational level and knowledge, in that order. For adoption to occur, it is necessary that farmers' adverse attitudes to an innovation change. Once the innovation is perceived as profitable, appropriate, having an acceptable level of risk, being compatible with the farmer'sgoals, and being easily integrated into existing farm practices, then the innovation will be adopted relatively quickly (Barr and Cary 1992b). The social and economic etzvironment Opinion leaders are thought to have an important influence on the adoption process (Sethu-Rao and Bhaskaran 1978; Rogers 1983). They uphold or create new norms in a communitv which influencethe behaviour of farmers. It was observed in some farming communities that there was a 'spoked-wheel' type of interaction, with many farmers going to a few leading farmers for information and advice. This phenomenon is not negative; rather, it should be hamessed and used to the advantage of scientists in promoting their message. However, leaders, no matter how innovative they are personally, are unlikely to favour innovations that threaten their roles as leaders (Dixon 1982). If this were the case, one would reach a stalemate and these opinion leaders would become a liability. It is important for extension personnel to locate opinion leaders and gain their approval and confidence by providing them with information on new technologies. In Australia, it is possible that opinion leaders play a significantrole in encouraging the adoption of appropriate technologies among farming communities. In an Australian study, Anderson (1982) described innovators, or those who were quick to adopt new technologies, as progressive farmers. It is likely that these farmers are influencial in encouraging other farmers to adopt. However, from a study of Queensland farmers by Tully (1966), the progressive farmers were shown to have no positive influence on the rate of adoptionby other farmers in that same community. Further research is required to determine the role of leadership in rural communities in adoption, and to ascertain whether progressive farmers are opinionleaders. Farmers will consider a new idea in the light of its advantages and perceived benefits. These advantages will be considered relative to those of the practice it replaces. The adopter's perception of an innovation may be influenced by various factors, including their social or economic position and the message of the extension officer. The advantage may be expressed in terms of economic profitability, safety or security, enhanced social standing, or of self-esteem (Dixon 1982). In a study of the adoption of soil conservation practices, Sinden and King (1990) found that the major determinant in the final decision to adopt was the economic measure of land condition. Two other significant variables were found to be key economic factors. These were the annual wheat yield and livestock carrying capacity. The significance of these economic variables provided further evidence that the economic paradigm is a useful model of farmer behaviour (Sinden and King 1990). The initial and sustaining cost of a technology is another important aspect affecting its adoption. The farmer must be able to see the financial benefits of making the adoption in addition to the long-term benefits of maintaining productivity (Chamala 1987). An example of such long-term benefits has been demonstrated by the adoption of innovations in land management in the Land Care program (Chamala and Mortiss 1990;Campbell and Junor 1992).It is also likely that adoption will not occur if a big gain is not expected by the farmer. Presumably a large gain is needed to compensate for the risk involved. The technology developed may be shown to provide a certain minimum level of improvement in productivity; however, it must be seen to be a substantial improvement by the farmer (Cary et al. 1989).In a study of conservation cropping in northern Victoria, a steady increase in the use of direct drilling and minimum-tillage cropping during the 1980s was reported by Cary et al. (1989). The key advantage which convinced farmers to bring these innovations into practice was the lower crop-growing costs, which were clearly demonstrated in terms of savings of time and fuel (Ewers 1990). Although improved soil structure results in higher yields, this has not led to increases in adoption. yield increases may need to be converted to profit or income increases before adoption is secured. Many farmers are now being forced to reappraise the traditional systems of conventional cultivation due to the high costs of equipment and fuel, and the increasing cost and scarcity of labour (Corbin and Pratley 1984). This could, however, be offset by higher chemical costs with the adoption of reduced tillage systems. Arcia (1980) suggested that the adoption of new technologies should incorporate available information about farming systems and the circumstances in which the farmer or farming system is operating. Even technologies that are supported by extensive research and development may not successfully transfer, usually because the socioeconomic setting in which the problem is embedded has not been taken into account (Russell et al. 1989; Bawden and Macadam 1991). Bangura (1983) suggested that farmers' individual characteristics and
  7. 7. Constraintsto the adoption of agriculturaland environmentalinnovations 555 their economic limitations need to be considered by planners of agricultural development programs. The adoption of new technology may also cause existing farm equipment to become obsolete before the end of its useful life (Swindale 1979). Not all technology-based innovations, however, have a financial cost. In some instances there may be a direct saving of expenditure with no initial output of resources. Allowance should also be made for socioeconomic variables associated with risk and uncertainty in the design of new farming technologies (Ongaro 1988). The relationship between socioeconomic status and innovation has generally been depicted as positive and linear (Gartrell et al. 1973). These findings have also been supportedby a South American study, where low-income farmers were found to be more risk-averse (Arcia 1980). Bangura (1983) found that farmers prefer to adopt those innovations that satisfy their security needs, are less complex, require less time to use and are less labour- demanding. Innovations that are simple and relatively easy to understand are more likely to be adopted than those that are complex. These simple innovations include recommendations to change crop cultivars or to use a new chemical (Martin et al. 1988). These can be communicated easily and in a short time (Dixon 1982; Vanclay 1992a, 1992b). Although it appears that the more complex the innovation,the greaterthe resistance to its adoption (Vanclay 1992a, 1992b), Cary (1992) proposed that these complex or difficult practices may still be adopted,but their rate of adoptionwill be slow. The individual is less likely to be innovative in an environment which does not favour change, even if the individual does. If one was to go outside the social boundaries, one would risk being considered a social deviant and at the mercy of social sanctions (Dixon 1982). Tully (1966) demonstrated this problem where 2 early adopters became isolated from a larger farming community that contained 34 farmers in total. These farmers lost their influence among the larger community of dairy farmers, as they were considered to have deviated too far from the group norms. These 2 farmers had adopted improved pastures on their farms for 15 years before the rest of the farming group, and their levels of income were 3 times higher than the average income on the farms of that region. Despite their higher productivity, they had very little impact on the rest of the farming community in securing adoption. Chamala (1987) suggested that the attitudes of farmers towards the methods used in agricultural production are influenced by macro- and micro-level factors. Macro-level factors include government policies such as legislation, taxation policies, subsidies, availability of lower-interest capital, cross-compliance, cost-sharing, import duties, demand for food, prices at the international level and foreign exchange fluctuations. The so called micro-level factors are those aspects associated with socio-psychological variables and information exposure. Ben-Achour (1988) suggested that there is a positive relationship between the availability of family labour and the adoption of a new technology. However, this is unlikely to be the case in Australia, where the labour resource has traditionally been scarce (Campbell 1980; Davidson 1981). Further evidence is required to determine whether this is still the case. Constraints inherent in the irinovation Rogers (1983) describes 5 aspects of innovations. These are its relative advantage, compatibility with existing innovations, trialability, observability, and con~plexity.If a new innovation is complex and its cost and expected returns are difficult to identify, and the adoption challenges the farmer's belief, then the communication from researcher to extension officer to farmer is less likely to lead to adoption. In analysing the constraints to adoption that are inherent in the innovation itself, there are 2 major types of innovations. These are commercial and environmental innovations (Chamala 1987; Vanclay 1992a, 1992b). Commercial innovations are designed to increase productivity in a relatively short time and have immediately visible effects. These appeal to farmers who wish to increase returns, reduce labour input or increase social status. Environmental innovations are designed to protect the environment and maintain long-term productivity, for example, conservation tillage practices and integrated pest management (Chamala 1987), and advice to use chemicals in a particular way. Discussion by Cary (1992) of the adoption of land conservation practices has revealed that the major determinantsaffecting the adoption of a soil conservation practice are the attributes of the practice itself. A case in point is that there is little evidence that beliefs about soil salinity control alone influence the rate of pasture sowing, independently of expectations about the profitability of this innovation (Barr and Cary 19926). Another example is the adoption of new wheat varieties by farmers in the northern wheat belt of New South Wales (Martin et al. 1988). In their survey, conducted between 1983and 1985,Martin et al. (1988) showed that the wheat cultivars that were grown corresponded closely to those recommended by the New South Wales Department of Agriculture. Only 1 case of growth of the non-recommended cultivar, Osprey, was encountered among the 50 farms studied. Bardsley (1982) indicated that the reasons farmers do not adopt newly recommended wheat varieties are that they are offered no clear improvement over those existing varieties, and that they may have strong ties with the existing variety. In the survey by Martin et al. (1988), the herbicide chlorsulfuron was also quickly adopted. This study showed that the innovations were readily adopted
  8. 8. 556 L. J. Guerin and T. F. Guerin because of their clear advantages over existing practices, their compatibility with other practices on the farm, their high degree of observability and low degree of complexity. These attributes are characteristic of innovations that are readily adopted (Cary 1992; Vanclay 1992a, 19923). On the other hand, adoption of nitrogenous fertiliser use has been slow, considering that widespread deficiencies in the soils of the region have been known for almost 40 years (Martin et al. 1988).This slow adoption of nitrogenous fertilisers may have occurred because of cost and a low and variable correlation between the soil nitrate test at sowing and grain yield at harvest (Martin et al. 1988). Also in this study, the estimated area of wheat stubble that was burnt in northern New South Wales in 1985 was 227 000 ha. There has been a significant reduction in stubble burning over the past 40 years. However, tillage practices have changed to a lesser extent over the same period, with minimum tillage and no-tillage direct drilling occurring on 14 and 1% of farms in the study, respectively. In contrast to the results of the study by Cary et al. (1989) on the adoption of conservation practices in northern Victoria, this level of adoption is relatively low. The key advantage that convinced farmers to bring these innovations into practice was the lower crop-growing costs, which were clearly demonstrated in savings in time and fuel (Cary et al. 1989; Ewers 1990). Thus the northern New South Wales wheat-belt farmers studied by Martin et al. (1988) may require further convincing of the financial benefits of conservation tillage practices if greater rates of adoption are to be achieved. As demonstrated by Martin et al. (1988), there are usually no problems in securing the adoption of new varieties of wheat, a crop which is bred purely for grain. A very different picture is presented by the oat crop. Although this crop can produce very high dry matter yields during the winter without decreasing the overall state average grain yield of 1.38 t/ha, widespread adoption of recommended varieties is still low (Guerin and Guerin 1993). Methods of oat crop management suitable for most farm situations have been carried out on New South Wales government research stations for well over the 34-year period recorded (Guerin and Guerin 1992~).The major constraints to the adoption of recommended oat varieties in New South Wales are the scarcity of seed of the recommended varieties and a preconception of what a 'good' oat variety looks like. In many parts of the wheatbelt, the 'grain only' varieties, often from Western Australia, are killed off by frost and close grazing by sheep. Registered oat seed growers in the wheat-growing areas further increase the already plentiful supply of these 'grain only' varieties, as well as mid-season varieties, neither of which have been bred with dual-purpose characteristics. Farmers of the potentially high-yielding soils of the slopes and tablelands cannot obtain enough seed of the recommended varieties and often have to sow 'grain only' oats which do not produce autumn or winter feed for grazing (Duncan 1983). This non-adoption of recommended, dual-purpose varieties may have also limited the production of fat lambs in these regions (Spurway 1975;Archer and Swain 1977). Not all innovations developed by scientists and other technology developers are relevant to all farming systems (Audirac and Beaulieu 1986). These researchers argued that technology adoption is influenced by factors called 'access conditions' and that potential adopters respond more to these than they do to attitudinal variables. Access conditions are intrinsic in the technology itself, and include factors such as how knowledge-demanding and how labour-saving the technology is. The access conditions also consist of distributional characteristics of the innovation, such as whether it is promoted through publicly funded extension or by commercial franchising. Traditionally in Australia, much of this promotion has been conducted by district agronomists from State Departments of Agriculture (Campbell 1980). However, in recent times with reduced government funding, this service has become less common. Commercial organisations, including rural retailers and agricultural consultants, have supplemented this service to a large extent (Wylie 1992). In fact, rural retailers have siezed on this need of farmers, turning it into an opportunity to add value to the products they sell (B. Guerin, pers. comm.). Sound advice can fall on deaf ears if the farmers being addressed have no awareness of the problem. Extension officers may have a difficult task that demands a good deal of patience, and this involves first creating an awareness of problems in the target group. In many cases, however, the farmers have well founded reasons for rejecting an innovation (Vanclay 1992a, 1992b) and the adviser must examine these in detail to appreciate the reasons for its rejection (Albrecht et al. 1989). There is another problem of relevance in this regard. Discrepancies between experimental farm yields and those found on most farms, for many crops and over many years, are a likely reason for farmers deciding not to grow a new crop cultivar. Davidson and Martin (1965) and Davidson et al. (1967) have provided some evidence for this for wheat in Western Australia and Victoria. In unfavourable years, the average yield of commercial crops is approximately equal to experimental yields. In years favourable to the crop, both farm and experimental yields increase, but experimental yields increase at a greater rate. Apparent exceptions to this are sugar yields in Queensland and rice in the MIA. The results of some research are simple and easily observed, and are therefore easier to communicate to farmers. Innovations with a high degree of observability
  9. 9. Constraintsto the adoption of agricultural and environmental innovations 557 are more likely to be adopted (Dixon 1982). Warner (1981) also proposed that a lack of observability of results will hinder the adoption of technology. However, it should be remembered that some innovations do not lend themselves to easy communication and sometimes the information packages are too complex. These are some of the most common reasons for non-adoption (Chamala 1987). This should not be a problem, however, if the information is prepared by professional communicators. Lack of observability of the results of new technology has been shown to limit the motivation of some farmers (Warner 1981). Demonstrations of new technologies, however, can greatly improve their observability. Demonstrationscan take the form of field days, on-farm demonstrations, or visits to other farmers who have successfully adopted a particular technology. The formation of participatory groups in the Australian Land Care program has closely involved the land-using community and has helped understand the need to prevent and overcome problems of land degradation (Campbell and Junor 1992). This approach of establishing land-user groups, has worked well in promoting change in land management practices (Chamala and Mortiss 1990; Campbelland Junor 1992).This is being achieved through organised tours in which farmers to travel to on-site demonstrations, and through active participation in land- user discussion groups. This approach is being further addressed in projects to develop self-mustering systems for sheep (O'Dempsey 1992), improve wool production from pasture (Wilson 1992) and increase the adoption of herbicide-based fallows (Cox 1992). The outcomes from these studies should prove useful in evaluations of the effectivenessof this approach to extension. Swindale (1979) suggests that technology that can be readily transferred from the research environment, and which is appropriate for the farmer's needs, may not be accepted by the farmer because it is not understood. This is the case especially for complex technology that evolves from multidisciplinary efforts. It has been inferred that scientists are generally better at analysis than synthesis, and thus that the process of recapturing technology from its principles can be difficult for the farmer (Swindale 1979).Therefore, new technology may prove inappropriate if the information gathered about farmers' needs and resources is inapplicable or inaccurate (Swindale 1979). The role of communicationin the adoption process An important aspect in the adoption process is the identification and proper use of appropriate communication (Blum 1987). For example, it is unlikely that the use of media in agricultural extension can replace personal contact between extension workers and target groups or individual farmers. Media may make this work easier and broaden the range of people addressed (Anderson 1981). They can, therefore, be a great help in extension work because they enable the individual adviser to operate more effectively. They also provide a way of making it easier for the target group or individual farmer to absorb information. For a review of extension aids, the reader is referred to Mortiss (1988) and Albrecht et al. (1989). Some of the main methods are described in the following paragraphs. Methods of communication that were traditionally used in Australian agriculture were word of mouth, print and postal media (Milne 1992). These methods were slow and were often limited as to their geographical destinations. With more sophisticated, electronic communications, information access is becoming less significant as a constraint to the adoption of technology. The telephone, while providing farmers with immediate information regarding a problem, has its limitations. Even though the cost of long-distance telephone calls has decreased, it can still intimidate many people. Also, telephone communication depends on the person who is being called to be available; unavailability may lead to the 'telephone tag' syndrome of 2 people continually trying to return calls, but never making contact (Hawkins et al. 1992). Some of the main forms of electronic communications are electronic databases and on-line retrieval systems, electronic mail, electronic bulletin boards, and electronic conferences (Milne 1992). Farmers need continual access to information. More experienced farmers may need specialised information, while farmers operating a diversified farming system may need a complex mix of information (Lee 1988). Electronic networks are proving successful in the transfer of research that is relevant to Australian farmers. LandcareNET, an electronic network for Land Care groups across Australia, is an example (Hawkins et al. 1992). This system has become significant in technology adoption by both disseminating useful knowledge that already exists, and providing research findings as they are required. This latter aspect is of considerablevalue as it should help reduce the problem of information overload to primary producers. The results of a recent survey conducted on the 1andcareNET system to determine the interest areas of the network users were reported by Hawkins et al. (1992). Six issues were found to be of interest to 20% or more of the users surveyed. These issues were: salinity, erosion and acidity of soil, planning for whole farms and catchment areas, and education programs. This system has improved the interaction between land users, extension personnel, and technology developers. The implementation of LandcareNET has therefore complemented the traditional approach to extension in land management. By determining the gaps in farmers' knowledge, through the use of surveys on the computer network, extension personnel can focus their time spent in personal contact clarifyingfarmers' needs.
  10. 10. 558 L. J. Guerin and T. F. Guerin Improved access to information for farmers and extension personnel may assist the agricultural industry to gain a competitive advantage by reducing costs, increasing the rate of adoption of innovative technologies and methodologies, and providing support services for the proper integration of new innovations. A recent conference in Australia has further addressed the issue of information technology and reported a number of useful applications in the agricultural extension arena (Cuddy 1992; Gillard 1992; Hawkins and Rimmington 1992; Stapper 1992a). The role of the media and the ruralpress The effectiveness of providing information about new technologies to farmers-depends largely on the medium used. Where there is no extension officer or other skilled individual or group to provide the necessary information, radio, television and printed media will be important. Radio's effectiveness lies in its immediacy for conveying information. Television has the advantage of stimulating the farmer audience through the combination of pictures and words (Clowes 1990). Printed media allow the farmer to deal with issues in more detail. The permanency of printed media enables farmers to refer back to specific points, thus allowing them to gain a greater understanding of the innovation (Clowes 1990). The most important printed media for conveying information are the rural press and State Departments of Agriculture publications. Anderson (1981) has reported that advice from extension personnel is only 1 source of information among many used by farmers in decision making. Ratings of the importance of information sources showed that farmers regarded other farmers as the most important source (85%); the second was reading (excluding state Department of Agriculture Publications) (78%). Third was state Department of Agriculture publications (60%).In this study, advisers were rated sixth (59%). Rural newspapers, journals and magazines are the specific means whereby farmers find out about new technologies, including recommendations for new crop and pasture cultivars. In New South Wales the supply of much of this technical material has traditionally been the role of the State Department of Agriculture, through the regular publication of technical mailouts, which almost all farmers received. The rural press has communicated some of this important information throughout Australia in weekly tabloids and specialised journals. In 1991 there were at least 43 specialised serials available to farmers in Australia, covering all the major areas of agricultural practice (Cribb 1991). Role of the scientist in the adoption of technology Effective communication between scientists and farmers is a prerequisite for effective knowledge flow (Pickering 1992; Gray 1993). This can be achieved through the use of extension personnel or directly from the scientist to the farmer. It is likely that if this communication is not effective, then technology adoption will be limited. The following paragraphs describe some of the issues where scientists directly influence the adoption of the technologies they develop. Pickering (1992) defined many of the constraints on scientists in communicating their findings to the press. One that is of particular importance in the transfer of technology to primary producers is the lack of training and familiarity that many journalists have with agricultural science and related technologies. Pickering (1992), who claimed that few journalists have studied any science since high school, suggested that there may be difficulties in persuading some journalists to write on technical or scientific topics. Furthermore, he indicated that this may also mean that when interviewing scientists, they will often pretend to understand material that actually confuses them. Journalists are also restricted in what they write by their audience. Thus even if they do understand the complex issues themselves, they are restricted to writing in general terms for a wide audience. It is therefore important for scientists and other technology developers to limit the volume and complexity of material presented to journalists writing articles for the rural audience, and to present it clearly. Pickering (1992) believed that the most important constraints in the communication process are those that are imposed by the methodology of the scientists or that arise from their perceptions of how scientific information should be disseminated, or what they may need to do to achieve professional recognition. Scientists have often been criticised for lacking the skills necessary for the implementation of their technological innovations. They tend to rely on the written word for their information and subsequent dissemination of their findings. Farmers, on the other hand, rely mostly on visual and verbal messages in acquiring knowledge (Hanlon 1989; Pickering 1992). Scientists often assume that the gap between themselves and farmers will be automatically filled by the farmers or extension personnel (Pickering 1992). Farmers are often expected to be able to fully understand the various aspects of the new technology, and interpret complex agronomic interactions which can be different from those associated with the previous technology that may have been employed (Hanlon 1989). Effective research should, therefore, include a communication or extension process which starts at the design stage of the research, that is, by making sure that farmers want to know the results in the first place. The researcher does not have to do all the communicating. A research team may have specialist communicators (or extension staffj, but should not have so many as to break what should be strong 2-way communication links between researchers and farmers
  11. 11. Constraintsto the adoptionof agriculturaland environmental innovations 559 (Wylie 1992).Farmers often take an interest in specialist advice when it is made directly available to them. This is evident when scientists are given the chance to discuss particular aspects of their own work directly with farmers. Thus 1 role of the scientist is to encourage farmers to ask questions of themselves about the day-to- day tasks they conduct. If farmers could be encouraged to ask more questions about their own farming practice, their understanding of the task would increase and their awareness of the need for technology adoption might be increased, where this is appropriate. Scientists too could be encouraged to ask questions of the farmer. Not only can there be a breakdown in communication between technology developers and users, but the same may occur between the technology developers and the extension personnel. In some instances, a negative attitude has been shown to exist between research scientists and extension personnel, which in turn causes infrequent communication between the 2 (Ojiambo 1989). Wylie (1992) has indicated that in Australia, this breakdown in communication between extension personnel and scientists may be the cause of research findings remaining unused. There is also a tendency for scientists to disseminate their research findings in highly specialised scientific journals in a manner that helps them to command respect from other scientists, thereby helping the scientists to become established in their own fields. The disadvantage is that scientists are likely to place less emphasis on publishing in extension-type journals, and as a result the farmer is unlikely to be targeted in the reader audience (Pickering 1992). To ensure effective adoption, scientists and other technology developers need to acquire information about agricultural practices on farms. This may be obtained using both formal and informal sources. According to Ojiambo (1989), personal communication with immediate colleagues is the most frequently used source. Agricultural scientific literature and farmers themselves are also considered as important in decision making and problem solving (Ojiambo 1989). Technology developers should consider how their innovations will be perceived by the farmer and whether they are likely to be successful in improving productivity when implementing these under Australian conditions (Lawrence 1992). Scientists, therefore, need to understand problems with existing technology in the farming operation in order to develop effective new technology. Clunies-Ross (1990) has suggested that adoption is more likely to occur where there is a problem with existing technology than as the result of new scientific findings. Conservation tillage is a case in point. Diallo (1983) showed that the most important reason for adopting no-till practices was soil conservation, followed by energy and time savings. The tangible benefits to the farmer were observed as a reduction in soil erosion and fuel expenses. Limited adoption of agronomic research has been caused, at least in part, by presentation of research findings in a general form which is not paddock- and season-specific, and which is often difficult to integrate into other management practices (Stapper 1992b). It is likely that farmers tend to localise their knowledge of farming operations, while researchers tend to generalise their knowledge for dissemination. Current research is developing interactive, computer-based systems to assist producers and advisers in the optimal economic management of crops. This work includes specific information on fertiliser management, variety and sowing date choice, choice of rotations, disease and weed control, and fallowing (Stapper 1992b). When scientists conduct their research, they also need to keep in mind the criteria which make particular enterprises successful in Australian agriculture (Davidson 1981). First, the resulting innovation must have a low labour requirement for its implementation, as the labour resource in Australia has traditionally been scarce and is now costly. Second, it must be focused on producing a product for an export market since the local market is quickly satisfied. Third, it must benefit an enterprise that makes use of relatively large land areas. Fourth, it should also benefit an enterprise that produces a product that is easily transported to its export market. There is no point expecting that a new, high-yielding crop or animal breed will be adopted in any sustainable manner if it requires 2 or 3 times more labour input to produce the higher gains. Thus for an innovation to be successfully adopted into Australian farming practice, it should fulfil Davidson's criteria and the technology developer should be aware of these. Every component of the farming system is influenced by climate and weather, so it is very important that a consideration of climate be incorporated into agricultural research. This is particularly the case in Australian agriculture where climate, even within a state, can vary quite dramatically (Kelleher 1984). Climatic considerations are especially important to those who are breeding new crops and pastures. One example of this is the breeding of oat varieties in northern New SouthWales, where the summer rainfall climate has been suitable for the selectionof frost-resistant, dual-purpose cultivars for a wide range of climates (Vertigan 1979; Craig and Potter 1983; McLeod et al. 1985; Simmons 1989; Smith 1990; Guerin and Guerin 199227;Guerin and Guerin 1993). Thus, there are several important constraints to the adoption of technology that are influenced directly by scientists. These should be taken into consideration by extension planners when developing extension programs. The role of extension personnel The role of extension personnel in the transfer of technology in Australian agriculture has been pivotal in achieving the high levels of adoption of many important
  12. 12. 560 L. J. Guerin and T. F. Guerin innovations (Campbell 1980). Extension officers must understand all aspects of the technology in order to communicateeffectivelyto the farmer. But prior to this, the extension officermust explore and understand the farmer's needs first and foremost, to determine what is relevant technology for the particular situation. It is only then that the farmer can be expectedto adopt the technology. In Cary's (1992) discussion of the adoption of soil conservation practices in Australia, he showed that very few farmers believed that direct drilling would give increased yields, despite the widespread belief by farmers that it improved soil structure. He has also pointed out that while many farmers were aware of soil compaction on their farms, those who saw soil compaction or crusting on their farm were no more likely to direct drill than farmers who believed they had neither problem on their farm. This is an example where the help of extension personnel was vital in enabling the farmer to make the connection in understanding between higher yields and conservation tillage practices. Koons (1987) observed that a valuable message may not always be communicated, even if the extension personnel are knowledgeable and the farmers are re-ceptive. Thus basic scientific knowledge does not necessarily reach the rural community. A case in point is cropping enterprises, where dramatic improvements in agricultural productivity can be achieved by introducing simple, low-cost practices such as changing to a new variety that responds better to the prevailing conditionson the farm than a previously recommended variety (Blum 1987). If these simple messages are not conveyed clearly to the farmer, easily accessible gains will not be realised. Wylie (1992) argued that extension personnel are not always needed since innovative farmers have direct contact with researchers, have research trials on their properties and quickly put research into practice where it is of demonstrable value to them. However, we suggest that this is an extreme and rare situation and that most farmers, even if relatively innovative, are not of this sort. Some farmers may believe they are performing their routine farming tasks correctly but cannot see that the task could be made more efficient by adopting a particular technology. These farmers are unlikely to ask for the help of extension officers. It may be that other forms of information will be significant in this situation, such as the media and contact with farmer leaders. Some fanners will continue to base their adoption decisions on traditional beliefs and social criteria. Information on matters such as crop prices, fertiliser availability or irrigation schedules can efficiently be passed on through mass media, whereas attempts to impart skills or to persuade require a more personal involvement by extension personnel (World Bank 1990). Cary (1992) observed that many farmers who had abandoned the adoption of direct-drilling practices kept a positive attitude towards that particular technology. Despite their dis-adoption, they still believed that the advantages of the technology outweighed the disadvantages, but not on their own farms. The link between soil conservation attitudes and farm management behaviour was weak. This indicates the need for extension personnel to focus on solving technical problems associated with the implementation of conservation tillage technology, as well as on changing attitudes and awareness of soil degradation. Other examples of where there is a weak link between soil conservation attitudes and farm management behaviour have been observed in farmers' beliefs about agricultural chemicals and the adoption of the practice of stubble retention on cropping farms (Cary 1992). Cary (1992) suggested that there is little benefit in attempting to change the negative attitudes of the non-adopters until technical problems experienced by those who have adopted and rejected conservation tillage practices are solved. The ramifications of this example are likely to be significant for the adoption of agricultural technologies and innovations other than those recommended in the area of land management. Jameel (1988) pointed out that 2 fundamental aspects of the promotion of agricultural knowledge flows are farmer training and field support. The training of farmers followed by back-up support to facilitate the application of newly acquired knowledge and skills is essential. Cary (1992) also emphasised this need for back-up support for the successful adoption and retention of soil conservation practices. Thus, extension officers must keep up to date with the latest developments in technology that are relevant to their farming community. The training of extension personnel is vital, through formal courses or conferences, or less formally through reading of scientific and technical literature, or discussions with scientists directly. Bias and role conflict can disrupt the extension-farmer relationship and therefore the extension work. This danger, highlighted by Ben-Achour (1988), concerns the issue that technology developers and extension personnel can sometimes adopt an elitist attitude and treat farmers with contempt. Although such a situation has not been documented in Australia, it needs to be considered as a potential constraint. Extension personnel must also understand the economic issues relating to the farmer. The extension officers work with people, and therefore must be able to relate to them. They must be able to understand their problems and needs, and know how to communicate technical information in a way that is understood and seen to be meaningful (Anderson 1982). In Rogers's model (Rogers 1983), the extension worker is very much the mediator with regard to the communication of technology. Extension workers are seldom responsible for developing the technology and
  13. 13. Constraintsto the adoption of agriculturaland environmental innovations 561 may not even use it in their own work, but they must be capable of interpreting the complexities of scientific jargon in terms familiar to their farmer clients. To work successfully with farmers, they must respect farmers' skills and knowledge, and work hard to adjust to the farmer's situation rather than expecting the farmer always to look up to them (Hawkins et nl. 1982). Extension personnel must have an empathy with the farmers they are designated to assist (Anderson 1982). An effective extension officer will help not only to change and increase rates of adoption of new technologies, but also to reinforce those current practices of the farmer that are also beneficial (Albrecht et al. 1989). Extension officers need to have credibility with the farmers and must have technical competence. Developing credibility with farmers is claimed to be the single most important influence on the success of advisory services and individual extension personnel (Anon. 1988). When this is achieved, extension personnel are able to transfer technology and secure adoption at a considerably higher level. Table 2 identifies some of these criteria for credibility as perceived by farmers in New South Wales. Computerised expert systems show potential for improving the quality and efficiency of agricultural extension services by making vital expertise available to extension workers when and where it is needed. These expert systems can provide solutions for many current extension problems such as delayed decision time, which can be costly to farmers. They can also provide solutions to the problem of extension workers being bombarded with increasing amounts of information. Assisted by computer systems, extension personnel can solve problems that are out of their areas of specialisation. Lack of human resources is another problem addressed by computer expert systems becauie Departments of Agriculture can rarely afford to employ a full range of experts (Pasqual 1988;Volum 1988). Hawkins et al. (1982) showed that interpersonal or face-to-face communication generally was more effective than mass media for bringing about attitude change. Similarly,Underwood (1984) showed, in a study of 153 Queensland dairy farmers, that the most preferred method for acquiring information about a new technology was through face-to-face private discussions with people they knew. Mass communication should not be regarded as a substitute for interpersonal communication but is complementary to it (Hawkins et al. 1982). Rhoades (1990b) asserted that interpersonal communication is crucial for the adoption of technology and that there is no substitute for it. Government advisory services in Australia are centred on state Departments of Agriculture. These services are mediated predominantly along commodity lines, for example by sheep and wool extension officers Table 2. Farmers' perceptions of attributes that make extension personnel credibleA Maintain a practical approach to problem solving Make recommendations that are feasible in economic, technical and social context Make recommendations visible to the farmer Have experience in the application of new practices on farms Be well informed on the latest developments in agriculture Have an overall knowledge of agriculture Know the trends within industries in agriculture Be accessible to the farmer Be unbiased, honest, trustworthy and reliable Maintain confidentiality Empathise with farmers and their needs Understand and work within the social rules of the farming community A Modified from Anon. (1988). and horticultural extension officers. Different administrative arrangements are followed in different states. In Victoria and Western Australia, the extension services have been staffed principally by university graduates, whereas in New South Wales, large numbers of graduates of agricultural colleges have been employed (Campbell 1980). When staff of different educational backgrounds are employed in the same establishment, there may be friction within the service (Campbell 1980) which may limit the effectiveness of extension activities. Many extension officers are funded by the government. However, this government service has decreased as fewer . funds have become available. It is gradually being replaced to some extent by user-pays services and cost- recovery procedures (Cummins 1991;Frank and Chamala 1992; Vanclay 1992b). This means that only farmers who request help are likely to be visited by extension personnel. However, private sector involven~entin advisory services has increased several fold in recent years to the stage where, in some rural districts, there are more private sector advisers than those employed by the government. The largest group of private sector extension personnel includes advisers employed by retailers of rural merchandise, who provide a range of products and services to farmers (Wylie 1992). A further example of this change has been found in the Darling Downs region of Queensland. The number of professional advisory staff employed outside the government has increased over the last 15 years from about 10 to more than 60. At the same time, the number of government extension advisers (agronomists, livestock advisers and economists, but excluding soil conservationists) has declined from more than 20 to 16 (Wylie 1992).
  14. 14. 562 L. J. Guerin and T. F. Guerin Private agricultural consultants have complemented government personnel in extension in Australia. The former first appeared in Australia in the late 1950s when groups of farmers formed farm management clubs and employed their own advisers. These clubs originated as a result of farmers' dissatisfaction with the services then provided by the state Departments of Agriculture (Patterson 1978). The club adviser was recognised as one who dealt with the whole farm on a management, as well as a technical, basis. Patterson (1978) conducted a survey of all consultants known to have practised in Australia, as well as a survey of a sample of farmers from areas of Victoria and New South Wales serviced by consultants. This study revealed that 13% of the farmers in these areas had paid for professional farm management advice. These farmers-tended to be larger- scale operators with multi-enterprise properties. As a result of farmers' declining demand for consultants' services, consultants have to a large extent diversified their activities into overseas consulting and/or institutional and business consulting (Patterson 1978). Farmers require specialised advice to maintain high productivity. Advice is becoming less available because of reductions in government funding, and many farmers can no longer afford to pay for consulting services. Therefore, other sources of advice about new technologies and innovations are likely to become increasingly important. Methodologies in extension research The traditional methods of conducting agricultural extension research have included the use of questionnaires, on-farm trials and demonstrations, farm budgets and cost-benefit analyses, yield extrapolations from experiment stations, field days, informal farm visits and formal interviews. The most common method has been the use of questionnaires. The adoption or non- adoption of a particular innovation was correlated with a wide range of variables such as age, level of education and socioeconomic status, and constraints are then identified from the significantcorrelationsfound (Rogers 1983). The benefits of the questionnaire approach are that large numbers of farmers can be surveyed, and statistical analysis can be performed on quantitative data for the testing of various hypotheses. From these analyses, generalisations can be made as to the reasons for non- adoption. Data collected in the questionnaires are often substantiated or complemented with informal or formal interviews on the farm. Extension personnel then use this information to focus on the likely problems limiting adoption. The success of this approach has been documented in the vast number of empirical studies reviewed by Butte1et al. (1990). Rhoades (1990b), however, criticised over-reliance on the questionnaire as the primary means of obtaining information. He indicated that what people say is not necessarily what they do, and that the results obtained are culturally and time bound and the context of a particular farm activity is not revealed. The person asking the questions introduces a bias, since deference and untrue answers may be given. These criticisms are based on case studies conducted in developing countries (Rhoades 1990b), therefore there are cross-cultural barriers to the interpretation of these studies in terms of agricultural extension in Australia. Rhoades (1990b) describes the necessity for a greater diversity of methods to be applied in extension research. all of which should be based on greater farmer participation and empowerment. The success of this approach has been described by Chambers et al. (1989) and its recommendations and applicabilityto Australian agriculture have been reported and discussed by Russell et al. (1989). A few projects are specifically addressing the issue of extension through the training of extension personnel in the use of computer models (Dumsday 1992; Vickery 1992; Young 1992) and in the use of field manuals (Daniels et al. 1992). Some research programs are examining the effectiveness of participatory approaches in land management extension. One of these programs involves the farmers in the decision-making process through action learning on small localised demonstration sites before transferring conservationcropping techniques to a larger scale. It has also involved bus tours for farmers to travel to these demonstration sites, farmer group discussions and the dissemination of brochures and newsletters written specifically for farmers (Harvey 1992). A similar approach is being used by Woog and Kelleher (1992) to determine the constraints to the adoption of new technologies by a number of New South Wales and Victorian dairy farmers. The interaction betweenfarmers and scientists Participatory action research (PAR) and its variants (the farmer-first, the bottom-up and the land user driven approaches) have been suggested as improved approaches for the adoption of innovations (Chambers et al. 1989; Russell et al. 1989; Chamala 1990; Lockie and Wilson 1990; Rhoades 1990a, 1990b; Macadam and Bawden 1991; Whyte 1991; Campbell and Junor 1992). PAR involves farmers in the research process from the initial design of the project, through data gathering and analysis, to final conclusions and the development of recommendations arising from the research. In this approach, groups of farmers, extension personnel and scientists work closely to achieve the needs of the farmers. This approach recognises that scientists are in a potentially strong position to demonstrate the benefits of adopting because of their intimate knowledge of the technology (Whyte 1991). It also implies that farmers become directly involved in the research that is appropriate to their particular needs. Group meetings are an important part of the information exchange process in
  15. 15. Constraintsto the adoption of agricultural and environmental innovations 563 this approach. This is especially true for small-scale farmers who engage in joint-farm operations, or belong to agricultural co-operatives. There, members of the group can compare their experiences of technology transfer (Lee 1988). PAR complements the Rogers (1983) traditional adoption-diffusion model (Russell et al. 1989; Campbell and Junor 1992)and may be considered as an extension or further development of Rogers's convergent model of adoption-diffusion, where farmers, scientists, and extension workers create and share information to help themselves reach a common understanding of the problem. In Australia, the PAR approach is only beginning to be tested. A recent example of the application of this approach to extension has been through the establishment of the Land Care program (Campbell and Junor 1992). The perceived benefits of the PAR approach are: first, groups accelerate attitude change, and the development of more appropriate land management innovations. Second, this approach asserts that attitude changes lead to behavioural-change.However, we would suggest that although attitude change is a prerequisite for behavioural change, behavioural change does not automatically follow on from attitude change. Third, PAR has developed to recognise the needs of farmers to become involved directly in taking responsibility for their own destiny, and to participate to enhance their understanding and commitment to developing solutions and decision making. This is based on the findings of Knowles (1978), which indicated that people are committed to a decision or activity in direct proportion to their planning in, or influence on, that decision. In addition, Rhoades (19906) claimed that farmers are experts in defining their problems and therefore should have input directly into agricultural research. Fourth, limited extension resources can be more efficiently utilised in servicing groups. This is particularly the case in land management extension in Australia, where the government does not have the resources to deal with conservation,management and remediation of soils on its own (Charnala and Mortiss 1990). Some of the key issues in this area are: soil and water pollution from agricultural chemicals; salination of water; soil acidification;declining soil structure; insect resistance; and reduced water quality. Finally, it has been suggested that local farmer groups can more readily access agribusinesses and private consultants (Campbelland Junor 1992). Campbell and Junor (1992) reviewed studies conducted in 1990 and 1991 where from a total of more than 3000 Australian farmers, 23% were found to be involved in Land Care groups. Cary (1992) has shown that membership of a Land Care group was the most important factor determining the level of tree-planting behaviour in a group of central Victorian farmers. These reports indicate that PAR has had a wide impact, particularly as it was only introduced into land management extension in the late 1980s. Although widespread, the effectiveness of this approach across a wider spectrum of enterprises needs to be further validated, and the relative rates of adoption of those farmers involved and those not involved in Land Care programs should be determined. The concept of farmer community groups working on their own productivity-based problems is not a new concept (Tully 1966). By forming a group, where extension personnel and farmers discussed the issues relating to their low productivity, dairy farmers from the Caleta Valley in Queensland were able to both define and solve their problems of poor pasture vigour. Tully (1966) demonstrated that on being encouraged to see what their real problem was, which in this case was the need for improved pasture, the farmers became convinced of their need and actively went about adoption. The formation of the group also increased the understandingof the need for adoption within the group. There are a number of perceived limitations of the various PAR approaches to extension (Campbell and Junor 1992). There is a perception that to involve scientists in this process is distracting them from their primary role of research. Also, as PAR groups assume more responsibility, government advisory officers will have less input into extension. There has also been a suggestion that farmer groups that were originally established for a specific purpose could become distracted from their original reasons for forming the groups (Campbell and Junor 1992). Anderson (1981) has identified a problem that may arise when networks of farmers are established. Once established, these networks can exhibit varying degrees of closure so that information entering these networks from government advisers or specialists, or knowledge produced within these networks through farmer group trials, is likely to remain within the networks and not pass immediately to the wider farming community. This claim was based on a study of several farming groups in Australia, and therefore highlights a potential problem with an approach to extension that involves the formation of groups (Anderson 1981). Another criticism is that if farmers are directly involved in research, what will be the scientific quality and wider applicability of the results? The quality of data obtained from some field experiments conducted by personnel who are not trained in scientific methods is unlikely to be useful to the wider scientific community. Moreover, the PAR approach to extension assumes that farmers want to be involved in the research that is applicable to them, but it should not be assumed that farmers necessarily want to be involved. In addition, Ojiambo (1989) has provided evidence that farmers prefer informal oral sources, channels mainly with extension personnel, farm demonstrations, and
  16. 16. L. J. Guerin and T. F. Guerin Table 3. Selected innovations from agricultural research in Australia and the major constraints to their adoption ITechnology or innovation Major constraints to adoption Reference Availability of a new meat sheep breed Release of a new legume pasture species into native pastured areas of northern Queensland Mulesing of sheep in Queensland Release of a new wheat cultivar No perceived benefit in adoption and Bardsley (1982) strong ties between the fanner and the currently used cultivars Perceived lack of profit in adoption Lees (1991) No perceived relevance to farmers Frank and Chamala (1992) Considerable effort required to learn Mortiss (1988) the technique and the unpleasantness of the job A development in soil management to reduce erosion (e.g. direct drilling) The development of a management program for the eradication of a crop or animal pest Introduction of urea-molasses roller drums during 1965-66 drought Technical problems and lack of follow-up Carey (1992), by extension personnel Sinden and King (1990) Lack of understanding of program Russell et al. (1989) No major constraints identified Frank and Chamala (1992) communication and informal visits to other farmers. Besides, there are difficulties in getting scientists out to farmers, particularly in Australia, where distances between scientists and farmers can be great. Further research needs to be conducted to test the validity of these criticisms. Although little published information is available on the extent to which farmers conduct their own experiments and field trials, it is highly likely that this may be an important mechanism by which farmers learn about and evaluate new technologies (J. Glendinning and B. R. Davidson, pers. comm.). By conducting their own trials, even if only very simple, with few variables being tested, it is likely that their decision to adopt will be made considerably more easy. Such 'pers6nal PAR' increases dramatically the observability of the usefulness of a technology or innovation, and could help overcome non-adoption (Ojiambo 1989). This approach has been used extensively in developing countries and the success of this method has been reported recently by Chambers et al. (1989). Discussionand conclusions In the classical diffusion model of extension, innovative farmers have direct contact with researchers, have research trials on their properties and quickly put research into practice and diffuse the findings to other farmers who have contact with them. A criticism of the classical diffusion model stems from the observation that many farmers would prefer to wait for a farming or opinion leader to invest in and test a new technology before the farmers themselves do so. They do this in order to avoid taking any risks that they may experience if they were to adopt immediately. The classical model relies on the identification of key or progressive farmers who are instrumental in further diffusing innovations to other farmers. This model has also been based on the belief that the causes of poor agricultural performance are essentially technological and can be solved by developing technology and improving the delivery of this technology. Further criticisms of the model are that it does not take into account cross-cultural differences, nor does it consider the social context in which farming operates, and that for some innovations, clear-cut stages in adoption are absent. Rather, the classical model assumes that awareness of a new and relevant technology is sufficient reason for farmers to adopt. A number of current research projects that address extension in Australian agricultural research have been examined, and clear trends have been observed in the manner in which research findings are expected to be extended to the farmers. Most agricultural scientists conducting research in Australia have indicated that extension in their projects will involve media publicity, field days, seminars, and publication of findings in newsletters and technical journals. Although this implies the involvement of scientists and extension personnel, the specific means of extension in these projects have not always been clearly defined. Some research in Australia is being conducted with the aim of training extension personnel, and only relatively few projects are applying the principles of participatory action research in their extension methodology.
  17. 17. Constraints to the adoption of agricultural and environmentalinnovations Table 4. Key constraints to technology adoption that require further researchA Seneral type of constraint Specific constraint and recommended Likelihood of occurrence and areas for further research priority for further research rechnological only Inherent in technology and method of extension [nherent in method of extension only Farmer- and farm-based Complexity of technology or advice Cost of technology or service Lack of information on the technology Lack of observability of new technology Limited or ineffective interaction between extension personnel and farmers No perceived relevance of new technology Farmers' isolation from field days and on-site demonstrations Absence of farmer group leaders Farmers' attitudes towards technology Limited education Perception by farmers that agricultural productivity is beyond their control Low socioeconomic status Limited access to specialised forms of media Size of farm Age of farmer High Medium-high Low High High High High High High Medium-high Medium Medium Medium Low Low A Compiled from references cited throughout the text. Constraints have been identified in relation to the problem of technology adoption in Australia (Table 3). Adoption will be limited if the new technology has little financial benefit or relevance, or if there are considerable technical difficulties associated with its implementation, coupled with little back-up support. However, some innovations are adopted with relatively few, if any, constraints (Table 3). Based on these studies and other examples described throughout the review, a number of general constraints to adoption have been identified. These findings indicate that the barrier to adoption of agricultural technologies and innovations is multifactorial (Table 4). These constraints include the nature of the technology, the way in which it is conveyed to the farmer, and the attitudes and perception that the farmer has about the technology. Innovations are adouted because of their direct commercial value, or because they are designed to maintain long-term productivity on the farm. However, innovations will not be adopted if they are perceived to be unprofitable, risky, not easily integrated into existing farm practices, or too complex for the farmer to understand (Table 4). The lack of observability of the benefits of a new technology is a further constraint to adoption. The factors associated with the farmer's beliefs and attitudes toward the technology are the other major constraints identified. In addition, farmers' levels of motivation and their perceptions of the likely relevance of a new technology are of fundamental importance. The way that farmers receive information, and the manner in which extension personnel and scientists interact with farmers, are further key issues in extension (Table 4). The relevance of new technologies may be improved by further involving farmers in the research process. For any 1 innovation, geographical location and group of farmers, not all the same constraints will apply. In each particular circumstance, the constraints will be different and specific to a farmer or group of farmers. Although it can be difficult for extension personnel to predict with accuracy which constraints need to be overcome, they must be addressed in order to design effective extension programs. Further implementation of the participatory action approach to research may help overcome some of the constraints leading to non-adoption. However, this ought not be considered a completely new or alternative approach to extension as state government Departments of Agriculture have always involved farmers to varying degrees, in trials and field days, thus providing input to the scientists in the convergent form of Rogers's classical diffusion model (Rogers 1983). Widespread
  18. 18. 566 L. J. Guerin and T. F. Guerin demonstration of the effectiveness of the participatory approach has yet to occur in developed countries such as Australia. This approach has been criticised in that it is perceived to be distracting to research scientists, who should be focusing their efforts on developing technologies.If a technology has been developed in a well thought-out way, then farmers will adopt it because they will see its relevance. A further criticism of this approach is that trained extension officers may provide less input into farm operations. This may be detrimental to the continual back-up support that farmers have been identified as requiring if they are to maintain the adoption of a new technology. There is also the perceived problem that when involved in participatory groups, farmers may keep information exclusively within their groups, and also become distracted with other issues that are peripheral to the originalreason that the groups were formed. Field trials and on-site demonstrations are a vital link in the extension process. This has been the case historically in Australia and is even more so now, with the increasing emphasis on participatory approaches to extension. Extension personnel have played a key role in these demonstrations, although there is some indication that farmers do not require their services. While most extension personnel have been employed by state Departments of Agriculture, some farmers, particularly those with large-scale properties, pay for advice from consultants. State Departments of Agriculture are also beginning to charge for various services. In summary, Rogers's model of technology transfer is still applicable to the extension of innovations to the Australian farming community. In recent times this model has been supplemented by participatory approaches. The effectiveness of the latter approaches, claimed by some to be the way forward in extension, still needs to be validated. The most effective examples of technology adoption are situations where the adoption has brought a direct financial benefit, minimal complexity, acceptable risk, and has been easily integrated into current practices. As has always been the case, farmers usually need to have the new technology demonstrated to them before they will adopt. Directions for further research Some areas in agricultural extension in Australia require further investigation (Table 5). From current research and recent reviews of Australian extension, a high priority needs to be given to the involvement of farmers in the development of technology, along with better training of extension workers and a better knowledge of farmers' needs. This may be achieved by further implementation of participatory approaches to extension. There are many examples of the effectiveness of such approaches to extension in developing countries; however, further research needs to be conducted to determine their effectiveness in Australia. A review of Table 5. Summary of issues in extension that require further researchA Effectivness of participatory approaches relative to that of the classical adoption-diffusion approach to extension Determination of baseline levels of adoption of innovations among various farming communities thoughout Australia Influence of different forms of media on adoption Effectiveness and feasibility of incorporating an extension component into scientific research proposals Quantification of levels of adoption of innovations in environmental management in various agricultural industries A Compiled from references in the text. extension research from developing countries indicates that the classical approach to determining the constraints to adoption, using Rogers's model (Rogers 1983), needs to be modified if extension research is to develop further. Much speculation exists in Australia as to PAR'S effectiveness, but few data exist to support these assertions. Thus, there is a need to compare traditional extension methods based on the adviser as the intermediary between scientists and farmers, and PAR approaches. Research on the effectiveness of the PAR approach in extension has been conducted with sheep graziers (Roberts 1992; Russell et al. 1992) and in the developmentof a buffalo fly trap for dairy cattle that does not use pesticides (Vogt 1992). The findings from these studies should prove helpful in addressing these concerns. Despite the perceived limitation of the classical adoption-diffusion model, research and advisory structures in Australia are still largely based on this model. As a consequence, the effectiveness of technology transfer from the specialist/adviser to the farmer on a one-to-one basis could be compared with the transfer from the same to a group of farmers. This comparison could be made in conjunction with the current Land Care program. A study should also be made of the relative numbers of farmer opinion leaders in various agricultural industries and their levels of impact. Furthermore, the effectiveness of communication between scientists and extension personnel should be assessed to determine whether this is a weak link in the classical adoption-diffusion model. The role of the questionnaire in extension research has also been examined in regard to its ability to truly reflect the farmer and the farm situation. More informal approaches may be needed to complement the questionnaire; these approaches could be investigated further under Australian conditions. Baseline levels of adoption must be obtained before further attempts are made to determine whether a