Farmer engagement using a precision approach to watershed-scale conservation planning: What do we know?

P. Ranjan, A. S. Singh, M. D. Tomer, A. M. Lewandowski, L. S. Prokopy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Farmer engagement is an integral component of conservation planning, with increased emphasis on precision placement of conservation practices. Conservation planners are increasingly turning to tools like the Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF)-a decision support tool (DST) that provides a menu-driven approach to conservation planning. Scholarship on human dimensions of precision conservation, also known as conservation targeting, has either examined farmers' general attitudes toward targeting, or when farmers are active participants in generating targeted practice options. However, less is known about farmers' perceptions of targeting when they receive targeted conservation options for fields they farm. With the goal of filling this knowledge gap, we present findings from semistructured in-depth interviews conducted with farmers in four watersheds in the US Midwest. Results suggest that farmers are receptive toward conservation options for their farms. Several factors influenced farmers' receptiveness toward site-specific conservation targeting, such as farmers having autonomy in the targeting process, and perceiving that the process had benefits such as field-scale validation of their natural resource concerns and its potential to encourage watershed thinking. Results also highlight the potential of conservation targeting in motivating conservation behavior. Recommendations for future conservation targeting include being mindful of the scale of the map and the amount of information presented, having boots on the ground, and engaging farmers one-on-one to motivate conservation behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)444-452
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Soil and Water Conservation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the farmers who agreed to be interviewed for this research. The authors would also like to thank David James (geographic information specialist at the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Ames, Iowa) and Jackie Getson (research associate and outreach coordinator in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana) for the ACPF-generated map and a map of the study watersheds, respectively. This research was funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency, Federal grant #83675501, and supported by a USDA interagency agreement between the Agricultural Research Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 Soil and Water Conservation Society. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Agricultural conservation planning framework
  • Decision support tools
  • Disproportionality
  • Precision conservation
  • Semistructured interviews
  • Watershed planning


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