Adoption of agricultural conservation practices in the United States: Evidence from 35 years of quantitative literature

L. S. Prokopy, K. Floress, J. G. Arbuckle, S. P. Church, F. R. Eanes, Y. Gao, B. M. Gramig, P. Ranjan, A. S. Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This is a comprehensive review of all published, quantitative studies focused on adoption of agricultural conservation practices in the United States between 1982 and 2017. This review finds that, taken as a whole, few independent variables have a consistent statistically significant relationship with adoption. Analyses showed that variables positively associated with adoption include the farmer self-identifying primarily as stewardship motivated or otherwise nonfinancially motivated, environmental attitudes, a positive attitude toward the particular program or practice, previous adoption of other conservation practices, seeking and using information, awareness of programs or practices, vulnerable land, greater farm size, higher levels of income and formal education, engaging in marketing arrangements, and positive yield impact expected. Some variables often thought to be important, such as land tenure, did not emerge as consistently important in this cross-study review. Other variables, such as farmers’ sense of place, training, presence of institutional conditions supporting adoption, and the role of collective decision making are not measured in enough studies to draw conclusions but potentially have a relationship with adoption decisions. Implications for how to promote conservation adoption and directions for future research are discussed. Because positive attitudes and awareness of conservation programs or practices are positive predictors of adoption, practitioners should share benefits of specific practices and programs and leverage existing practice adoption. Further work to explore relationships between conservation adoption and the role of farmer identity, nuances of land tenure, and the influence of structural factors is needed. Moreover, we suggest that future research should focus on the impact of different messages and avenues of reaching farmers in order to continue to inform conservation practices. Future research should consider both individual and institutional factors that facilitate and constrain adoption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-534
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Soil and Water Conservation
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • Agricultural Best Management Practice (BMP
  • Conservation programs
  • Outreach
  • Program design
  • Social indicators
  • Vote count

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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