Evaluating Stakeholder Perceptions on Palmer Amaranth Management in Georgia

Progress report for GS19-217

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2019: $14,797.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2022
Grant Recipient: University of Georgia
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Dr. Jennifer Thompson
University of Georgia
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Project Information

Summary:

Over the last 20 years the adoption of herbicide tolerant crops in the Southeast, primarily cotton, has increased the adoption of conservation tillage systems, which has been shown to increase the environmental sustainability of row crop production. Unfortunately, the heavy reliance on glyphosate has strongly selected for herbicide resistance in Palmer amaranth, a pernicious annual weed. In response, farmers have re-incorporated deep tillage, and spend large amounts of money on hand weeding. Both these practices decrease environmental and economic sustainability. Practices, such as cover cropping, have been suggested to balance weed suppression and soil conservation; however, cover crops add to management complexity. Newer cotton varieties, resistant to auxin herbicides, are replacing older ones. This has presented environmental, social and economic challenges, with numerous reports of damage to non-HT crops, including high-value specialty crops, leading to economic, legal and interpersonal tensions within rural communities. While farmers are the users of herbicides, Extension agents, as well as industry representatives and salespeople are also part of the “social ecosystem” of weed management. The interactions among these groups directly determine how weed management is practiced. The goal of this study is to use a social science approach called Q-Methodology to: 1. Identify viewpoints from different stakeholder groups around how to best manage Palmer amaranth; 2. Characterize how viewpoints are convergent or divergent among different stakeholder groups; and 3. Determine if stakeholders view ecological practices as viable management strategies. Understanding this social context helps to design effective educational and incentive programs to adopt more sustainable practices.

Project Objectives:

1. Identify viewpoints from different stakeholder groups around how to best manage Palmer amaranth;

2. Characterize how viewpoints are convergent or divergent among different stakeholder groups;

3. Determine if stakeholders view ecological practices as viable management strategies.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Melissa Ray (Researcher)

Research

Materials and methods:

We are conducting a study using Q-methodology. This entails having various stakeholders (farmers, extension, and industry) sort a series of 24 cards based on management options for Palmer amaranth. The card sort (or q-sort) is followed by an interview in which participants further explain their choices, opinions and perceptions of these options.

At this time, we have conducted 21 q-sorts and interviews (12 farmers, 7 extension agents and 2 agrichemical retailers) in 7 counties within Georgia. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic we conducted 4 in-person versions of this at extension offices. We shifted all activities to zoom for the subsequent 17 participants trying to maintain the same format but via video conferencing. Our goal within each county is to speak with 1 extension agent, 1 agrichemical retailer, and 2 farmers. Farmers have been selected with the help of extension based on their interest, or lack thereof, in cover cropping. We anticipate completion of all q-sorts and interviews in the winter of '21-'22. 

Research results and discussion:

We are still in the process of data collection. As such, we have yet to begin formal analysis of the data. 

Participation Summary
12 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Our goal is to hold 2 meetings with farmers at extension offices in an Eastern and South/Central county that has yet to be determined. We hope to share our results via this format, and are considering developing a webinar as well.  

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Given that we are still in the process of data collection, we are presently unable to respond to this. 

Knowledge Gained:

Given that we are still in the process of data collection, we are presently unable to respond to this. 

Recommendations:

Given that we are still in the process of data collection, we are presently unable to respond to this. 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.