Investigating Social Networks for Cooperative Management Potential in Agriculture

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2020: $8,984.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2022
Grant Recipient: North Carolina State University
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Dr. Jason Delborne
North Carolina State University


Not commodity specific


  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Sustainable Communities: partnerships, social capital, social networks

    Proposal abstract:

    Successful insecticide (IRM) and herbicide (HRM) resistance management (RM) in agriculture is contingent on the aggregation of insect and weed best management practices (BMPs) on the farm-scale to the landscape level. Endeavors such as this require significant coordination and collaboration across diverse sectoral boundaries in agricultural production, which invoke social, economic, and political forces to structure the incentives, norms, and rules regarding RM. Currently, these structures are largely designed to serve diverse farm-scale management practices, not landscape level. Therefore, research is needed to investigate alternative solutions that re-organize these structures towards the success of implementing landscape level BMPs.

    One pathway to alternative solutions is through cooperative management strategies, where multi-stakeholder collaborations within an agricultural production system work together to devise best management practices, and share costs, benefits, and knowledge across diverse institutional boundaries. Critical to the organization of these systems are social conditions like trust, reciprocity, and social capital that mediate the social ties that promote exchanges of information, knowledge, and resources related to IRM and HRM. To study these conditions, I endeavor to pursue an exploratory, mixed-methods network study of Eastern North Carolina “Blacklands” agriculture. Using both qualitative interviews and social network analysis methods, I can uncover how social conditions structure and influence information and knowledge exchanges, and how they may be leveraged to enhance coordination and collaboration, and potentially lay some groundwork for the development of future cooperative management programs.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Objective 1: Investigate the diversity of farmer’s best management practices for insect pests and weeds, and how concretely these connect to shared practices in IRM and HRM.


    RQ1: What are the individual farmer perspectives, knowledges and values related the development of pest resistance, and the importance of IRM and HRM practices? To what degree are these knowledges and perspectives shared with other farmers?

    • What are their “best management practices”?
    • What are their challenges?
    • What are they concerned about?


    One of the key questions for assessing a management system at the landscape level is understanding how farmers are implementing BMPs for insect and weed management at the farm scale. What are some common features of these management practices? How do they relate to individual farmer knowledges, perspectives, and values? Are any of these elements shared?  Approaches to farm-scale management will be contingent on individual farmer perspectives and knowledges in addition to resource availability, which may result in very diverse practice. The challenge of aggregation to landscape level coordination is synthesizing this diversity of practice into a landscape level approach. Additionally, farmer perspectives on the concepts of IRM and HRM, and the degree to which farmers relate these issues to their own insect pest and weed management has implications for promoting cohesive cooperative management. A farmer’s recognition and understanding of their role in resistance management, and the role of others, may or may not create support for collaboration. Interviewing farmers about their individual practices and conceptual perspectives in order to understand the diversity of practices currently on the ground is therefore foundational.



    Objective 2: Map out network connections between who farmers communicate with, share knowledge and collaborate with on different aspects of resistance management.


    RQ 2: Who do farmers trust and rely on the most to help them make decisions about IRM and HRM

    • Who do farmers talk to about IRM and HRM related practices?
    • What is the nature of the connection between farmers and trusted sources?
    • Why do farmers trust these sources?

    RQ 3: How do farmers relate their personal perspectives and knowledges to what they receive from other sources?


    Each farmer will communicate their own unique management plans tailored to their specific farm characteristics and resource capacities, in addition to their personal knowledges that they use to facilitate said plans. However, farmers also heavily rely on information and knowledge from other entities when designing their management plans, which means that they leverage trusted information sources to make decisions concerning IRM and HRM. Who are these most trusted sources, and why do farmers trust them? Additionally, because there is a collective interest for all farmers to engage in effective insect pest and weed management practices, are their informal collaborations between entities that already exist? Who is involved and how are they organized? Mapping out social ties based on information and knowledge transfer, and management collaboration can illuminate important social factors that could be leveraged to enhance the potential for coordination in implementing landscape-level BMPs.


    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.