The barriers to adoption of recommended fertiliser use practices by sugarcane growers in the Wet Tropics

Benn, Karen Elizabeth (2013) The barriers to adoption of recommended fertiliser use practices by sugarcane growers in the Wet Tropics. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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The dominant scientific paradigm holds sugarcane growers' cultivation practices responsible for the greatest amount of soil and nutrient run-off flowing from the Wet Tropics coast to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) lagoon. Despite strong encouragement from governmental agencies, coupled with proposed gains from reduced costs and increased levels of sugar content after reducing fertiliser use, sugarcane growers have been reluctant to alter their fertiliser practices – a situation that has puzzled Reef protection scientists. This study originally set out to understand grower's reluctance, and involved eighty-two in-depth interviews with sugar industry representatives (growers, mill agents) from two case study areas in the Wet Tropics region and other stakeholders with interests in the industry's environmental performance (scientists, policy makers). This qualitative methodology was used to interrogate participants' values, interests and beliefs, which in turn motivated their actions and views regarding fertiliser usage.

Ecological Modernisation Theory (EMT) provided the initial conceptual framing for understanding the way different sectors of the sugar industry responded to the recommended environmental practice. Yet through this EMT lens important economic, social and environmental issues emerged that suggested that the proposed benefits of the science and technology offered to the sugar industry were fraught with problems. Moreover, knowledge disputes about the validity and contested nature of the dominant science became an important component of the analysis – especially as these highlighted the power relations of different stakeholders. Foucault's notion of the knowledge/power nexus and associated debates about eco-governmentality provided an additional conceptual framing of the sugar industry and its governance. The combined EMT and Foucauldian analysis of sugarcane growers' reasons for not reducing fertiliser use provided insights into the problems associated with the reliance urban bureaucrats place on scientific expertise to inform natural resource management (NRM) policy without consulting local rural peoples' knowledge.

Effective, acceptable and sustainable environmental policy relies on well-briefed policy makers who can account for the validity and potential social and economic impacts of their policies. This study's method of investigation could contribute to better ways of working with farmers on issues of environmental management. Granting more credence and respect for rural people's knowledge will lead to more sustainable NRM policy development outcomes through a more democratic process of making decisions that ultimately affect the livelihoods of those farmers.

Item ID: 29590
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Wet Tropics; Great Barrier Reef (GBR) lagoon; sugarcane industry; fertilizer application practices; motivation for change; value of local knowledge; sustainable policy development
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Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Benn, Karen E., Elder, Jan, Jakku, Emma, and Thorburn, Peter J. (2010) The sugar industry's impact on the landscape of the Australian wet tropical coast. Landscape Research, 35 (6). pp. 613-632.

Date Deposited: 02 Oct 2013 02:13
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 34%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1605 Policy and Administration > 160507 Environment Policy @ 33%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management > 070108 Sustainable Agricultural Development @ 33%
SEO Codes: 94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9402 Government and Politics > 940204 Public Services Policy Advice and Analysis @ 34%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences @ 33%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9607 Environmental Policy, Legislation and Standards > 960701 Coastal and Marine Management Policy @ 33%
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