One size does not fit all: The plurality of knowledge sources for transition to sustainable farming

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Sustainable farming encompasses diverse practices that draw on various knowledge stocks. This knowledge must be adapted to suit the farmers’ crops, the local environment and the farming system. To achieve this requires farmers to build on their knowledge and invest in acquiring knowledge from external sources. It should not be assumed that different farmers cultivating different crops adopt the same knowledge sourcing strategies. Therefore, the present paper conducts a crop level analysis to study the relationship between knowledge sourcing and innovation in sustainable farming practices, for different crop categories. We exploit a French Ministry of Agriculture cross-sectional dataset on farming practices in 2017 and run a multivariate probit regression and equality of means test. The results reveal that the importance of different knowledge sources is ranked differently by different growers cultivating different crops and adopting different practices. The findings show, also, that farmers use the same knowledge sources with the same intensity to diversify their crop types. These results have two implications. First, since knowledge is a primary driver of innovation, farmers must capitalise on their knowledge. Second, policies must be flexible and co-designed with farmers in order to support them and respond to their needs. In formulating policy, an account should be taken of differences in the knowledge sourcing strategies related to different crops to ensure a quick transition to sustainable farming.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-254
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Early online date19 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • Farmer's knowledge
  • Knowledge sourcing
  • Sustainable practices
  • innovation


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