Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Psychology, Sociology and Rural Studies

First Advisor

Abdallah M. Badahdah


Globally, the agricultural sector is faced with the challenge of balancing food production with environmental sustainability. This calls for careful and sustainable management of natural resources such as soil, water, and the atmosphere. Conservation farming practices have been noted to be a viable approach to achieve this germane goal. Scholars and governments have therefore called for the need for widespread of these important practices. Yet, adoption remains low. This study investigates the preferences and decision-making of farmers in South Dakota regarding conservation practices. The study adapts the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) to analyze the interplay between attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived control in shaping the farmers’ decisions to adopt conservation farming practices. It employed a survey-based research design, collecting data from farmers in the Willow creek watershed of South Dakota. It examines how factors such as perceived benefits and costs, social influences, trust in information sources play out in farmers’ decision to adopt conservation practices. Additionally, it examines how monetary inducements (Payments for services) interact with TPB factors to determine adoption of conservation farming practices. The study provided an understanding of the determinants influencing the adoption of conservation practices among the surveyed farmers. It was found that the respondents, predominantly male farmers, possessed considerable experience and education in farming, owning or renting sizable plots of land where they made autonomous decisions. Familiarity with various conservation practices was high overall. Despite their familiarity with conservation practices, actual adoption rates of conservation practices, both on owned and rented lands, were relatively low, with tile drainage and nutrition management being the most utilized. Analysis to explore the TPB domains using regression revealed that the attitude of farmers was a significant influence across all models, showing its important influence in the adoption of conservation practices. Subjective influence was significant for only notill on (rented land) and other conservation till (owned land) and behavioral control was significant for cover crop (owned land), no-till (owned land), and extended rotation (owned land). Experience as primary decision maker, total rented acres, information trust, highest level of education, age, impact of other conservation till and payment of $130/acre for reduced tillage and extended rotation were all also found to be significant. The findings contribute to the understanding of conservation practice adoption and the development of effective, equitable PES schemes that promote widespread adoption of sustainable practices. The study underscores the need for multifaceted interventions that integrate psychological theories with economic, social, and extension education components. Context-sensitive initiatives are essential to address both internal decision-making factors and external constraints, ensuring effective promotion and adoption of conservation practices among farmers. It therefore calls for the need for tailored educational programs, strengthening extension services, community engagement, tailored enhanced financial incentives, and long term-monitoring and evaluation to identify and track successful strategies for promotion of conservation practices.


South Dakota State University

Available for download on Saturday, May 15, 2027



Rights Statement

In Copyright