New Survey Results Provides Insight into Farmer Perspectives of 4R Program

To better understand farmers’ nutrient management perspectives in the Western Lake Erie Basin, researchers from The Ohio State University’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences conducted a farmer survey in 2016. This survey focused on nutrient management practices related to nutrient loss, exposure and knowledge of the 4R principles and concern of water quality issues in the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB).

More than 700 farmers participated in the survey, which was one of three survey projects funded through the 4R Research Fund dating back to 2010. The survey was led by Dr. Robyn Wilson, Associate Professor at Ohio State.

Dr. Wilson explained that the current issue is low efficacy, as farmers are highly aware of the water quality issues in the region and are concerned as a whole, but certain barriers contribute to farmers’ beliefs or execution of practices that could reduce nutrient loss. Farmers understand the effectiveness of 4R practices, but they continue to ask, “Will it work on my farm?'” A unified message from stakeholders and experts in the region needs to be conveyed to the end users, WLEB farmers.

Below are key takeaways from the survey:

  • From 2011-2016, the concern about farm practices regarding nutrient loss rose from approximately 50 percent to 80 percent
  • From 2013-2016, farmers’ knowledge of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program rose from 70 percent to 93 percent
  • From 2013-2016, exposure to the 4R principles rose from 60 percent to 96 percent
  • More than 70 percent of farmers responded that information about nutrient stewardship comes directly from their nutrient service providers, one of the most trusted sources of information received by farmers
  • 73 percent of farmers were aware that the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program is available for NSPs in their area
  • 44 percent of respondents are currently working with certified NSPs
  • Click here to read the complete survey results from Ohio State

A follow-up survey to past participants is being created and will likely reach participants in January 2018, specifically focusing on farm practice survey questions.

Dr. Wilson is also concentrating efforts with Seneca County Conservation District and Ohio Farm Bureau around its Blanchard River Demonstration Farm to host farmer discussions during field days to hear what nutrient best management practices are working for the farmers in the area.