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Towards sustainable crop protection in agriculture: A framework for research and policy

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Agricultural Value Chains / Agri-Businesses
Robert Finger, Jaap Sok, Emmanuel Ahovi, Sharmin Akter, Johan Bremmer, Silke Dachbrodt-Saaydeh, Carolien de Lauwere, Cordelia Kreft, Per Kudsk, Fatima Lambarraa-Lehnhardt, Chloe McCallum, Alfons Oude Lansink, Erwin Wauters and Niklas Möhring.


European countries have set ambitious targets to reduce the risks of pesticide use. Achieving these targets will require a large proportion of farmers to adopt sustainable crop protection practices. However, how to enable this transition and what are the best policies to support farmers remain open questions.


Here, we provide a coherent review of existing evidence and new insights into farmer decision-making and policy analysis in the context of the transition to more sustainable crop protection. We synthesise and extend the empirical evidence and the conceptual and methodological foundations to examine farmers’ decisions to adopt sustainable crop protection and to assess the potential of different policy measures to support this transition. Our analysis focuses on European agriculture.


We provide a framework and synthesise evidence by reviewing the literature and combining agronomic and economic perspectives. We focus on three issues: i) indicators for empirical analyses of adoption of sustainable crop protection practices; ii) behavioural perspectives on farmer adoption; iii) insights into methodological approaches for assessing adoption of sustainable crop protection practices and related policies.


We have identified four main findings and implications. First, sustainable crop protection practices consist of combinations and bundles of individual measures that are not currently regularly considered in policy instruments and policy analysis. Second, definitions of adoption should move from simple adoption metrics to impacts, for example on pesticide risk reduction. Third, behavioural factors are highly relevant to farmers’ adoption decisions, but are currently under-researched and under-represented in the field of sustainable crop protection practices. Fourth, the tools currently used for policy analysis do not allow these key aspects to be represented. We draw policy conclusions.


Our analyses help guide policy decisions to achieve pesticide use and risk reduction objectives, and have implications for pesticide policy in Europe and beyond. We identify gaps in current conceptual and methodological approaches, promising avenues for future research, and ways to make results more coherent and comparable. Our analysis thus provides new insights and templates to guide future research and policy analysis on the adoption of sustainable crop protection approaches.