On April 7, Chris Morris and J. Arbuckle took over the Iowa Water Center’s Twitter account with another edition of our #TwitterTakeover series. Morris and Arbuckle delve into a discussion on their research process behind farmer adoption of conservation practices, as well as the transition to working from home due to COVID-19.
Morris is a graduate student in the Sustainable Agriculture program at Iowa State University. Arbuckle is a rural sociologist with emphasis on social dimensions of soil and water conservation. Arbuckle is the director of the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll and administers an annual farmer survey. He also is the Chair of the Sustainable Agriculture Graduate Program at Iowa State University.
Morris’s first research project that he conducted revolved around analyzing the 2016 Iowa Farm Poll to study the connection between a farmer having a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation plan and their application of the nine recommended conservation practices by the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.
His initial prediction of what the data would show was that applying the NRCS conservation plan would lead to the adoption of all nine recommended conservation practices. Their research did not show this, as a surprise to Morris. The research analysis concluded that having the conservation plan only predicted applying two of the nine conservation practices. This data also showed that the more frequent a farmer visits their local United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) service center, the more likely they will adopt conservation practices. The overall outcome that they found from this research was that farmer interaction with conservation specialists was the most consistent predictor of practice application.
The current project that Morris is working on is centered around targeted conservation, referring to science-based techniques to pin-point areas on land that are the most vulnerable to soil erosion and water quality issues.
Morris explains that targeted conservation is seen as a way to improve agriculture impacts in a watershed more efficiently, as opposed to just using “random acts of conservation.” Farmers are contacted by personnel and presented with the information, as well as offered technical assistance if needed. Targeted conservation is starting to be adopted by state and federal conservation agencies, and even private consultants, but its feasibility and success relies on the acceptance of the farmer.
Morris and Arbuckle analyzed data from the 2009 and 2014 Iowa Farm Polls to see if farmers’ relationships and attitudes about targeted conservation have changed over time. Their research found that even though the approval of targeting has slightly decreased in those five years, the majority of farmers still approve of targeted conservation.
The duo also examined in-depth interviews and focus groups to add to their survey analysis. Overall, they found that even though most farmers supported the idea, some farmers had concerns about being targeted, the use of the data and the need for cost share programs. Here are some snippets from the interviews that Morris shared on Twitter:
To end this #TwitterTakeover, Arbuckle and Morris shared the struggles that have come along with adapting to remote work. This is a quick glimpse into their working-from-home life:
You can follow Chris’s personal Twitter account, @JChrisMorris81, J’s personal Twitter account, @Jfullstop, their ongoing project’s account, @ISU_CCHANGE, and of course, the Iowa Water Center account @IowaWaterCenter to see the Twitter takeovers in live action.