This paper applies concepts from the sociological literature on ‘practices of care’ to investigate why flexibility is important for farmers in the adoption of conservation agriculture (CA) principles, and, crucially, how farmers integrate CA principles into their existing practices. Drawing on qualitative data from six mixed farming regions in South Eastern Australia, the paper discusses how a specific dimension of CA–crop residue retention–is integrated in the context of biophysical and material challenges, and practices of stubble burning. Farmers viewed burning as increasingly incompatible with their desire to be recognised as good land managers. Yet, shifting to full crop residue retention was perceived as posing challenges for their farming system and compromising farmers’ capacity to manage seasonal variations in pests, weeds and crop residue loads. As a consequence, farmers used burning as a key practice of care to deal in a flexible way with an uncertain and variable farming environment, and to make crop residue retention workable in the context of their farming system. In concluding, the paper argues that the significance of flexibility in farm-level integration of CA principles requires a shift in analytical focus from adoption barriers to practices of care.
|Number of pages||11|
|Journal||International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability|
|Early online date||20 Dec 2018|
|Publication status||Published - 2019|