Promoting conservation agriculture and commercial farmers in the Eastern Free State
Agriculture contributes to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) through practices that reduce the amount of soil organic carbon. Examples of this are fallow and intensive tillage. Conventional ways of farming are not sustainable as soils are degraded, imbalanced, over-utilized, low in organic matter and without heavy inorganic fertilizer good yields are not possible. Sustainable crop production however is essential for South Africa’s food security, employment and contribution to the national economy. The sustainability of agriculture needs therefore to address environmental, economical and sociological aspects. Conservation Agriculture (CA) is world-wide found as an antipode against soil degradation, erosion and ineffective water conservation as a result of conventional tillage. The problem, however is that CA is a much developed product of No-till, which requires a gradual and timely process. No-tillage in itself is not the desired outcome, but a first step to CA. Ample technical research has been conducted on no-tillage and CA reflecting improved soil quality, yields and profits (see paper 1). This thesis will elaborate more on local technical issues e.g. soil quality (paper 4) and profitability (paper 3), as to contribute to the increased adoption of sustainable farming. This thesis emphasized the urgency for transdisciplinary research and the role of sociology in innovation studies. The role of sociology is often overlooked, but this thesis advocates that sociology is an integral part of transdisciplinary research. Narratives are useful methods of explaining what NT and CA is (see paper 2). The Actor Network Theory is useful in that farmers possess “agency” as a result of networking, which enables the uptake of an innovation of NT and in addition to develop into context related or ecotype specific CA production system (see paper 5). This thesis addressed conventional farmers barriers to adopting NT e.g. livestock integration, doubt concerning profitability and lack of knowhow. This thesis contributes to environmental awareness and promotes that CA can mitigate GHG emissions through sequestration of organic carbon in the soil (paper 4) and reflecting direct and indirect environmental costs in terms of GHG through the use of diesel, fertilizer, pesticides and other chemicals (see paper 3).