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New study reveals the complex drivers and barriers affecting best management practices among potato producers

A groundbreaking study recently published in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems highlights both the opportunities and obstacles facing potato producers in Canada’s Ontario province regarding the adoption of best management practices (BMPs). Conducted by researchers from the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development at the University of Guelph and SunRISE Potato in Alliston, Ontario, the study dives deep into what motivates and hinders the implementation of BMPs in potato cultivation across the region.

Affordable alternatives

BMPs are recognized as practical, affordable alternatives to traditional farming methods, offering enhancements to the agricultural ecosystem by addressing socio-economic and ecological challenges. When effectively integrated, BMPs can significantly boost the sustainability and viability of agricultural operations. However, in regions dominated by intensive industrial agriculture, such as South-Western and Central Ontario, the uptake of these practices is less prevalent.

The research team adopted a Systems Thinking approach to fully grasp the myriad factors influencing BMP adoption among large, medium, and small-scale potato producers. Over a span of two years, the researchers engaged with the farming community through surveys, focus groups, workshops, and on-site observations to gather a rich mix of quantitative and qualitative data. This comprehensive data collection covered aspects like demographic profiles, management strategies, social networking, and perceived challenges associated with the adoption of BMPs.

Key findings

Key findings from the study indicate that a variety of motivating drivers, deeply rooted in personal beliefs and values, play a critical role in decision-making processes. These include the well-being of family and future generations, ecosystem preservation, soil and human health, strengthening of community and social relationships, and the drive for efficiency and profitability.

Despite these positive motivations, the study identifies several potent barriers that significantly impact the ability of producers to adopt BMPs. Structural challenges such as market access, stringent regulations, and the need to maintain production efficiency in a competitive environment are prominent among these obstacles. Interestingly, the impact of these barriers varies markedly between different scales of operations, highlighting the complex and multi-layered nature of the issue.

Developing targeted strategies

The insights gained from this exhaustive study are invaluable for policymakers and agricultural program designers. By understanding the specific drivers and barriers experienced by potato producers in Ontario, targeted strategies can be developed to encourage the adoption of BMPs, ultimately leading to a more sustainable and productive agricultural sector.

This study not only sheds light on the intricate dynamics of BMP adoption in Ontario’s potato industry but also sets a precedent for similar research in other agricultural contexts. The full research paper, titled “Best management practice adoption amongst potato producers in Ontario: a study of drivers and barriers,” can be accessed through Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, offering a detailed exploration of the findings and recommendations for fostering sustainable agricultural practices.

This publication not only highlights the significant research contributions from the University of Guelph and SunRISE Potato but also emphasizes the critical role of academic and industry collaboration in advancing our understanding of sustainable agriculture. The research project was funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), a government ministry responsible for the food, agriculture and rural sectors of the Canadian province of Ontario.

For more detailed information, the study is available on the Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems website at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2024.1358515/full.

Researchers: Charlotte Potter, Silvia Sarapura-Escobar, Peter VanderZaag,  Danial Salari and Regan Zink.
Contact for further information:
Charlotte Potter, PhD candidate – pottery@uoguelph.ca 
Silvia Sarapura-Escobar, Professor – sarapura@uoguelph.ca
Source: Front. Sustain. Food Syst., 23 April 2024
Sec. Land, Livelihoods and Food Security Volume 8 – 2024 |
https://doi.org/10.3389/fsufs.2024.1358515
Cover image: Credit NT Franklin from Pixabay

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse


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