What is more important agriculture or science


International survey shows strong discrepancy between research and practice

In order to minimize the negative effects of agriculture on biological diversity and the associated ecosystem services, "biodiversity-friendly" management is required. But why are these scientific results rarely implemented in agricultural practice? According to a recent survey of European scientists and farmers, this is mainly due to knowledge and communication gaps between research and practice. The study was led by Bea Maas from the University of Vienna and published in the journal "Biological Conservation".

For the study, 209 farmers and 98 environmental scientists were asked how they assess agricultural biodiversity and its management in Germany and Austria. Their perceptions were very different, “and show an urgent need for more interdisciplinary cooperation for sustainable developments. The different perceptions of information sources are particularly decisive, ”says Bea Maas, main author from the University of Vienna.

In the survey, interdisciplinary data and approaches as well as demographic factors were taken into account in the evaluation of the responses. Central result: scientists rate biodiversity, agri-environmental programs and nature conservation measures as more important for agricultural production, the resilience of ecosystems and sustainability than farmers. “Farmers, on the other hand, value sources of information from the government and the agricultural sector,” explains Anett Richter, co-author of the study from the Thünen Institute in Germany. Co-author Yvonne Fabian from Agroscope in Switzerland explains: “These different perspectives from scientists and farmers reveal crucial knowledge and communication gaps between agricultural research and practice.” “Our results are a plea, research, agriculture and political practice better integration, ”concludes co-author Sara Kross from Columbia University in the USA.

The authors give four specific recommendations for action on how knowledge and experience between agricultural science and practice can be exchanged and used more effectively:
Firstly, to make scientific information more accessible for practical use by promoting and establishing education and advisory programs for farmers. Second, to develop targeted concepts for agricultural research and practice that integrate different stakeholder perspectives in their design and application. Third and fourth, the support of integrative and inclusive cooperation between science and practice through the active promotion of interdisciplinary communication. According to Maas and her co-authors, these efforts require “partnerships and political commitment at the highest level in order to anchor integrative approaches centrally in the development of sustainable agriculture”.

Maas B., Fabian F. et al. (2021). Divergent farmer and scientist perceptions of agricultural biodiversity, ecosystem services and decision-making. Biological Conservation. DOI: 10.1016 / j.biocon.2021.109065


University of Vienna



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