Meanings, materials and competences of area-wide weed management in cropping systems
CONTEXT: Area-wide collaboration across private and public property boundaries can enhance the management of weeds and minimise the spread of herbicide resistance. Yet we know little about the practices individual land managers engage in to achieve area-wide weed management (AWWM). OBJECTIVE: This paper uses Social Practice Theory (SPT) as a framework to understand how cropping land managers engage with the practices of AWWM, and what the drivers and barriers are to their participation. METHODS: 30 qualitative interviews were undertaken with land managers in Australian cropping regions of the Darling Downs (Queensland), Gwydir (New South Wales), Riverina (New South Wales) and Sunraysia (Victoria). Thematic analysis of the interviews explored the three dimensions of SPT—meanings, materials, and competences—of AWWM and the interactions between these elements. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: There is a value-action gap between growers' desire to participate in AWWM practices and their capacity to do so. The analysis reveals that narrowing this gap requires interventions at the points where the SPT elements intersect. It recommends beginning by leveraging existing commonalities between growers who already have a desire to participate in AWWM then scaling out by encouraging trusted agronomist networks to link diverse growers to facilitate collaborative weed management practices. There is also a role for government in supporting the development of leadership capabilities among growers, providing an enabling environment for agronomists to act as systemic facilitators and leading by example on public land. SIGNIFICANCE: Most of the research on collective management of weeds has focused on formal groups in grazing systems. This study provides new insights into how and why weeds are largely managed independently in cropping systems and proposes ways growers may be supported to adopt more collaborative practices to address this landscape-scale problem.
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Australian Research Council