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Title:Human-nature relationships and nutrient management practices of Illinois farmers
Author(s):Yoshida, Yuki
Advisor(s):Flint, Courtney G.
Department / Program:Natural Res & Env Sci
Discipline:Natural Res & Env Sciences
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Human-nature relationships
nutrient management
agricultural conservation
US Corn Belt farmers
Abstract:Human-nature relationships are the way in which people relate to nature. Although this relationship has been extensively theorized, systematic and empirical investigations are numbered. This study of Illinois farmers builds upon the existing typological approaches with a novel framework and unexplored population. The participants are central to industrial agriculture in the US Corn Belt and thus the global challenge of nitrogen management evolving around the use of artificial fertilizers. Mitigation of the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico epitomizing this challenge necessitates the integration of social science-based approaches. Prior studies have shed light on the potential relevance of human-nature relationships to farmers’ decision making, and this study takes a mixed-methods approach to investigate how farmers in a watershed of east-central Illinois relate to their land and how this relationship associates with their nutrient management practices. The four hypothesis of this study are: (1) Respondents are expected to agree with multiple relationship types. (2) Human-nature relationships of farmers are expected to differ from that of the general populations studied previously. (3) Conservation interests among farmers are expected to be positively related to ecocentric tendencies and negatively with anthropocentric tendencies. The relative strengths of associations between relationship types and conservation are expected to parallel the typology’s spectrum from ecocentrism to anthropocentrism, with the most ecocentric type expected to have the strongest association. (4) Human-nature relationships are expected to be most closely associated with interest in conservation, followed by willingness to adopt practices and then behavior. Data from mail surveys and open-ended interviews complemented each other for a diversified understanding of farmers’ relationship with nature. Surveys of farm operators revealed high levels of environmentally oriented relationship types such as the Steward and Ecosystem Services concepts. Interviewees described a strong and affectionate bond with their land. Yet, the acceptance of the Master concept, a relationship of human-nature opposition, was unprecedented compared to previous studies which mostly focused on the European public. Analysis of both survey and interview data revealed that farmers agreed with multiple types of relationship concepts. Agreement with certain relationship types associated significantly with interest in conservation, willingness to adopt practices, and actual conservation behavior. This was consistent with informants’ accounts of a caretaking and collaborative relationship with their land, which at times manifested in the form of conservation practices. Nonetheless, this working relationship with the land also complicated their decision making. For some, bottom-line concerns, values of production, and vulnerability to natural conditions posed sizable constraints on the adoption of conservation practices. Others recognized that nutrient management could be compatible with their business interests. Further, the unique context uncovered ways in which the control and domination of nature, previously thought to be negatively associated with conservation, could manifest as ecologically sound practices. In uncovering the distinct ways in which Illinois farmers relate to their land, this explorative study contributes to the nascent body of empirical literature on how people relate to nature. Findings substantiate the expected relevance of this concept to conservation practices and inform policy, management, and communication approaches towards the development of efficient, effective, and potentially agreeable solutions to the nutrient challenge.
Issue Date:2013-08-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 Yuki Yoshida
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-08-22
Date Deposited:2013-08

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