OOS 46-6
Pest management decision-making: A comparison of farmer and scientist mental models and implications for outreach

Thursday, August 14, 2014: 3:20 PM
308, Sacramento Convention Center
Randa Jabbour, University of Wyoming
Eric R. Gallandt, Plant, Soil, and Environmental Sciences, University of Maine
Sarah Zwickle, Ohio State University
Robyn S. Wilson, School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Douglas Doohan, Ohio State University

Weed management remains a high priority for organic farmers, whose fields generally have higher weed density and species diversity than those of their conventional counterparts. However, we know little about the factors influencing weed management decisions by organic farmers. Through a series of interviews, we explored 1) how farmers and scientist ‘experts’ differ in fundamental areas of knowledge regarding weeds and weed management and 2) whether variability in farmer knowledge and perceptions of weeds and weed management were predictive of variability in on-farm weed seedbanks. We transcribed and coded interviews to quantify farmer and scientist emphasis on concepts regarding knowledge of ecological weed management, the perceived risks and benefits of weeds, and the perceived risks and benefits of weed management practices. To characterize on-farm weed seedbanks, we collected soil samples from five fields at each of 23 farms in northern New England (115 fields total) and measured germinable weed seed density.


Farmers demonstrated knowledge of the major concepts discussed by experts, but differed in emphasis. Farmers placed less emphasis on ecological complexity than experts. Farmers emphasized the role of experience, both their own and that of other farmers, rather than knowledge derived from scientific research. Low weed seed densities were associated with greater farmer knowledge of managing the weed seedbank and greater understanding of the importance of a long-term strategy. We will highlight specific farmer cases to illustrate the range of successful approaches. Targeted education focusing on this set of knowledge and beliefs of successful weed managers could potentially lead to improved application and success of ecological weed management in the future, thus decreasing labor costs and time necessary for farmers to manage weeds.