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Land manager attitudes and behaviours

This page is no longer updated. The information presented here formed part of our previous areas of research. This has included research carried out on behalf of our research partners, commerical contracts and also the Scottish Goverment's Strategic research programme during the period 2011 - 2016.

Scottish Goverment LogoWe have left these pages here to provide background information on our previous areas of research. Further details on the RESAS strategic programme of research (2016-21) will be made available.

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In order to understand how change in land management occurs, factors such as governance and how society, and in particular land managers, respond to changing environmental, political and socio-cultural conditions, is critical. The research in this area focuses on understanding land manager attitudes and behaviours, particularly as these relate to environmental assets and climate change. Although farmer environmental attitudes and behaviours have been studied at the Institute for several years, the topic of climate change is relatively new to social science.

We have found that published research focuses on agricultural land management, and decision making on commercial farms, as opposed to estates, public sector bodies, crofts, or hobby farms, and concentrates on uptake of agri-environmental schemes and organic farming. There is a body of literature on how farmers interact with the environment but it is primarily focused around how they respond to individual policy incentives or decide to convert to organic farming, and not on how they would respond to the combinations of policies and issues that arise from a global phenomenon such as climate change. We also found that there has been very little research on the system level changes that occur to influence change, that is, how combinations of policies interact with changing markets, business opportunities and land capability.

Research findings

A programme of engagement with stakeholders (that is, Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), local authorities, National Farmers Union Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates, the New Entrants Group, farmers and academics) identified specific topics on which to focus. These were on-farm renewable energy (pdf file), formalised farmer collaboration (specifically machinery rings and response to collaborative agri-environmental incentives), soil management and part-time/hobby farming.

PDF file: EU FarmPath: On-farm renewable energy production information note (opens in a new window)
PDF file: EU FarmPath: Machinery rings in Scotland information note (opens in a new window)
PDF file: What is happening on Scotland’s small ‘farms’? information note (opens in a new window)
PDF file: On-Farm Wind Energy  Production in Aberdeenshire information note (opens in a new window)

Information notes from the EU FarmPath project, also relating to work in the Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme, Land Use Theme, on land manager attitudes and behaviours towards climate change are available to download above.

A spatial context is being provided by analysing geographic relationships between land management and governance, at different scales across Scotland, to test the compatibility between land management objectives (for example, forestry, biodiversity, rural development, soil management, renewable energy).

Findings from in-depth qualitative research has revealed that the success of machinery rings as agricultural co-operatives reflects the flexibility and formalisation of service provision, as well as early adoption of computer technologies. Small-scale farming (holdings under 10 ha) was found to be an important, but largely unrecognised part of Scotland’s agricultural system, occupying nearly 20% of reported labour. Numbers of horses were found to be increasing on every farm size in Scotland (i.e. not just on small-scale farms). We also found that local planning and Scottish Government are strong actors influencing the up-take of on-farm agri-renewable energy production. In the North East of Scotland, this has increased rapidly in the last 10 years, primarily wind energy, but there is also high potential for small-scale hydro on rivers, solar energy and anaerobic digestion of livestock slurry.

Most of the early wind energy developments were organised by non-agricultural businesses, on land they either purchased or long-term leased from farmers. However, the National Farmers Union Scotland expects uptake of renewable energy production by farmers to increase rapidly, in part reflecting the introduction of feed-in tariffs to support renewable energy production by both private households and commercial businesses. This informs the work being undertaken by the Institute’s renewables team.

leaflet coverFindings from interviews with local authorities, farmers and estate managers on their use of soil data showed that these audiences have very diverse needs that are best addressed by tailoring soil data provision to the respective audiences (see report). There is still a widespread lack of awareness about what soil data is available and what this data can be used for, indicating that more communication effort and a central depository is needed. The recently launched Scotland’s soils website could serve as this central depository. The findings supplement previous consultations contributing to the Soil Monitoring Action Plan that is part of the activities progressed under the Scottish Soil Framework and linked with the CAMERAS Environmental Monitoring Strategy. 

Current research

We are now studying the influences of system-level changes on farmer uptake of renewable energy production - agri-renewables. That is, the interactions between energy companies, wind turbine suppliers, international and national government policies, energy and commodity markets, social norms), and how or if land managers differ from households in terms of their rationales for engaging in renewable energy production. We are reviewing the sources of information and processes land managers use to get involved in renewable energy production, particularly in relation to risk and, using agent-based modelling tools, mapping how land managers of different types interact. Linking with the Institute’s environment, risk and health team, our research is studying the roles and responsibilities of different actors specifically for soil conservation. 


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.