Skip to navigation Skip to content

Agriculture and Climate Change: Evidence on Influencing Farmer Behaviours. Section on Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ)

Research Funding Body

Scottish Government

Project Objectives

Explore what is known about the range of factors influencing attidues and behaviorus of farmers towards NVZ (part of a much larger report on farmers attitude and behaviour in the context of the Farm for Better Climate Programme).

Why relevant to improve implementation and uptake of water quality measures

NVZ are mandatory, so there is little focus in the literature on factors affecting uptake. It is generally taken for granted that farmers will comply with these regulations due to the penalties. However, to fully abide by the NVZ measures requires farmers to have thorough understanding of what exactly they entail. Therefore, information provision and education and advice have important roles to play and it is important to understand farmers perception on this specific regulation to easy its implementation.


Literature review

Key Results

Research indicated that:

  • NVZ farmers show more orientation towards production and profit than non-NVZ farmers.
  • NVZ farmers show higher levels of disagreement with environmental and social gaols than non-NVZ farmers.
  • A feeling of unfairness of designations exists amoungst the study population
  • Scepticism exists over the scientific basis
  • A statistically significant relationship between attitudes and behaviour exists
  • Farmers rarely considered environmental issues beyond the boundaries of their farms unless productive capacity and economic viability of their farms were affected.
  • Farmers did not believe they were responsible for water quality problems
  • Regional approach to NVZ had led to a feeling of victimization and frustration among farmers.
  • Three types of farmers based on the and values of farmers before and after the introduction of NVZs are identified: i) multifunctionalist, ii) resistors, and iii) apathists. Multifunctionalists and resistors showed higher levels of activities and even resistors had an underlying negative perception towards water quality management, they were the most likely to use external consultants and advisors, which may explain their adoption of voluntary tools such as buffers trips and manure management software. 

Recommendations for implementation and policy delivery:

  • If ethical attitudes are raised, through for example, providing appropriate levels of information about NVZs benefits, this may result in some behavioural change towards positive societal outcomes.
  • Farmers need to be convinced by the science in relation to NVZ
  • They need to have access to clear advice and information about regulations
  • Farmers would appreciate greater flexibility in: i) customization of closed periods at farm level to better reflect seasonal changes, local conditions, farmer knowledge and weather conditions, ii) the spread of farmyard manure and nitrate applications to be determined by farmers, based on their own experience, judgement and knowledge, iii) imposing limits on use of fertilizer can restrict potential crop yields and impact on profits.
  • Clearer messages are needed.



Contact Person

Angela Morngan (

Further Information

Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project


Areas of Interest

Printed from /research/projects/agriculture-and-climate-change-evidence-influencing-farmer-behaviours-section on 01/12/23 10:00:23 AM

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.