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Farm-level actions towards water pollution control: the role of nutrient guidance systems

Research Funding Body



Paul Wilson

Project Objectives

The use of nutrient guidance systems provides a key practical mechanism for reducing water pollution. However, there there is little research  to understand, or explain, the linkage between the uses of guidance systems on farmer attitudes towards water management. The objective of this paper is therefore to present an analysis of farmer attitudes towards agricultural water management, with a particular focus on the use of nutrient guidance systems as an influence on managerial practice.

Why relevant to improve implementation and uptake of water quality measures?

Within a practical UK farming context, pollution control via appropriate input use can be facilitated through the use of nutrient guidance systems. The role for nutrient guidance systems lies in the potential to achieve efficient nutrient use and minimise negative environmental externalities, for example, in the form of reducing nitrate leaching and pathogen release to watercourses, from animal production. How farmers use the guidance systems and the link between their attitude towards the systems and water quality can help understand how to reduce diffuse source pollution.


Drawing upon data from an on-farm survey with 1370 farmers and growers across England, combined with production, financial, farm and farmer characteristic data from the English Farm Business Survey, this paper investigates farmer attitudes and actions towards water pollution control.

Key Results

  • Significant differences in practices taken to reduce or prevent pollution were observed by farm type, EU region, farmer education level and use or absence of a nutrient guidance system. However, no significant differences were observed in financial output–input performance of arable farmers by use and non-use of a nutrient guidance system.
  • Nutrient guidance systems were, however, associated with a greater uptake of practices to reduce or prevent water pollution. Water companies could build upon upstream land management approaches to provide targeted investment in extension services to incentivise on-farm use of these guidance systems.



Contact Person

Paul Watson

More Information




Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project


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.