Rust, Niki, Ole Erik Lunder, Sara Iversen, Steven Vella, Elizabeth A. Oughton, Tor Arvid Breland, Jayne H. Glass, Carly M. Maynard, Rob McMorran, & Mark S. Reed (2022). Perceived causes and solutions to soil degradation in the UK and Norway. Land, 11(1), art. 131. (Open Access: https://doi.org/10.3390/land11010131)
Abstract: Soil quality is declining in many parts of the world, with implications for the productivity, resilience and sustainability of agri-food systems. Research suggests multiple causes of soil degradation with no single solution and a divided stakeholder opinion on how to manage this problem. However, creating socially acceptable and effective policies to halt soil degradation requires engagement with a diverse range of stakeholders who possess different and complementary knowledge, experiences and perspectives. To understand how British and Norwegian agricultural stakeholders perceived the causes of and solutions to soil degradation, we used Q-methodology with 114 respondents, including farmers, scientists and agricultural advisers. For the UK, respondents thought the causes were due to loss of soil structure, soil erosion, compaction and loss of organic matter; the perceived solutions were to develop more collaborative research between researchers and farmers, invest in training, improve trust between farmers and regulatory agencies, and reduce soil compaction. In Norway, respondents thought soils were degrading due to soil erosion, monocultures and loss of soil structure; they believed the solutions were to reduce compaction, increase rotation and invest in agricultural training. There was an overarching theme related to industrialised agriculture being responsible for declining soil quality in both countries. We highlight potential areas for land use policy development in Norway and the UK, including multi-actor approaches that may improve the social acceptance of these policies. This study also illustrates how Q-methodology may be used to co-produce stakeholder-driven policy options to address land degradation.
Mark S Reed <email@example.com> is in the Thriving Natural Capital Challenge Centre, Department of Rural Economy, Environment & Society, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), Edinburgh, UK.