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Extension 3.0: Knowledge Networks for Sustainable Agriculture

Project Summary: 

The overarching goal of this proposal is to understand the structure and dynamics of sustainable agriculture knowledge networks in California. We will analyze these networks using survey methods, cognitive maps, and computational social science. In addition to answering basic research questions, we will develop best management practices for using network concepts in agricultural education and outreach programs.

Primary Contact: 

The overarching goal of this proposal is to understand the structure and dynamics of sustainable agriculture knowledge networks in California. Agricultural knowledge systems have transformed as agricultural production has scaled-up and become more concentrated, specialized, and knowledge-intensive. Sophisticated local networks have evolved to link growers to a diverse range of stakeholders and knowledge brokers throughout food systems. The emergence of communication technology such as social media and smart phones has enabled new network connections and real-time social learning. While some outreach professionals have developed programs to capitalize on these trends, there is not a set of guiding principles, organizational structures, or training. California has an opportunity to be an international leader in developing outreach programs that catalyze knowledge networks.

The project focuses on five main tasks:

Adoption of Preventative Plant Disease Management Practices

Project Summary: 

This project examines farmer decision-making in the context of disease management, including the influences of policy, learning, cooperation, economic factors, and individual characteristics. We are using semi-structured interviews, quantitative surveys, and behavioral experiments to better understand farmer decision-making with respect to the adoption of preventative disease-management practices in wood-canker diseases of grape, pistachio, and almond. The research is in collaboration with plant scientists developing new diagnostic tools and disease-resistant cultivars as well as economists modeling the long-term costs and benefits of the adoption of preventative management practices.

Primary Contact: 
Project Participants: 

Wood-canker diseases significantly limit production and the longevity of grape, pistachio, and almond. With no eradicative controls, prevention is essential. This is attempted primarily through fungicides and preventative pruning, but grower adoption of such practices in mature vineyards and orchards comes too late for effective control. This is in spite of the fact that these diseases are widespread across the entire acreage of these crops and that these diseases are the main depreciable driver of crop longevity. Gaps in our ability to detect the pathogens in the nursery and the field, insufficient knowledge of disease-resistant cultivars, and a weak understanding of the socioeconomic factors that limit grower adoption of preventative practices contribute to a high disease incidence.

Sustainable Water Governance in Developing Countries

Project Summary: 

These projects investigate water governance strategies in developing countries, mostly in Latin America. The studies examine the influence of policies and institutions that promote government decentralization and local water management on water sustainability, social equity and economic efficiency. These projects employ a mixed-methods approach to research that includes survey research, interviews, case study analysis, mapping, participatory research, among others. Current projects are located in Northern Baja California, Mexico, El Salvador and Ecuador.

Primary Contact: 

Governance and water management in developing countries, mostly Latin America.

Regional Climate Change Adaptation

Project Summary: 

The project seeks to improve understanding of the role of institutions in developing adaptive capacity to the near-term effects of climate change in the Lake Victoria region of East Africa. Key adaptive capacity issues in the Lake Victoria region include disruptions to agricultural productivity, altered flood regimes, threats to the viability of fisheries, and shifts in plant and animal habitat suitability. Within the past few decades, numerous collaborative institutions have emerged to help address these adaptive capacity issues. Our study of how these institutions contribute to policy making and policy implementation draws upon recent applications of game theory to test predictions about organizational behavior within institutional networks, as well as resilience theory to test predictions about the role of institutional arrangements in creating and maintaining adaptive capacity.

Primary Contact: 

Objectives: We aim to improve understanding of the role of collaborative institutions in promoting adaptive capacity of complex social-ecological systems. Using data gathered from a survey of stakeholder organizations, the proposed project will investigate three related research questions:

Social Networks and Travel Behavior

Project Summary: 

This projects investigates the role of social networks and social influence in travel behavior. Sustainable transportation programs may benefit from the incorporation of social influence through knowledge sharing, establishment of behavioral norms and peer-to-peer participation recruitment. The next phase of this ongoing resaerch will involve evaluation of social influence as a tool in pilot sustainable transportation programs.

Primary Contact: 

Social network theory recognizes that decisions are made in a social context, and social relationships may directly affect the costs and benefits of different choices. Recent research in the field of network science has demonstrated that social networks profoundly influence individual behavior ranging from political decisions (Klofstad, McClurg, and Rolfe 2009) to diet and exercise (Fowler and Christakis 2007). As in other behavioral research, how social networks affect behavior is becoming a central topic in travel behavior research and has important implications for transportation planning and the overall design of sustainable transportation policies.

Local Government Policy

Project Summary: 

This is an umbrella project for several different research efforts focused on the adoption and implementation of local government environmental policies. A central theoretical focus of this project is how local government institutions such as the structure of city councils and the mayor/city manager office mediates the influence of interest groups on policy decisions. We are also interested in how the environmental and energy policies we study are connected to the broader of idea of sustainability.

Primary Contact: 

The Evolution of Cooperation in Multigenerational Social Dilemmas

Project Summary: 

We conduct experiments in multi-generational social dilemmas in which we examine the transmission of individual behaviors within and among groups of experimental participants. These experiments allow us to observe the cultural evolution of cooperation over time, including the roles of institutions, communication, and social learning. We conduct computerized experiments in a lab at UC Davis as well as online experiments using Mechanical Turk.

Primary Contact: 
Project Participants: 

Multigenerational experiments provide a valuable addition to the range of experiments commonly used in behavioral economics because they focus on the transmission of individual behaviors within and among groups of experimental participants. Thus, these experiments can be used to test important predictions from cultural evolutionary theory about the spread of cooperative norms in structured populations. Furthermore, multigenerational experiments mirror an important aspect of real-world cooperative dilemmas in which norms are transmitted among individuals who enter and leave the collaborative arena. We vary the range of institutional options available to experimental participants and examine the resultant evolution of cooperative norms across multiple generations.

Climate Change and Agriculture

Project Summary: 

This project examines agriculture and climate change with a focus on both mitigation and adaptation. In particular, we are looking at the variables that influence farmer and agricultural industry adoption of climate change mitigation and adaptation practices. Multiple factors will affect the adoption and innovation of practices in agriculture for mitigation and adaptation to climate change including information sources, climate change perceptions, policy structures, land management strategies, and economic and market drivers. As well, we are examining the effectiveness of a variety of climate change mitigation policies including cap and trade, mandatory regulations and voluntary carbon offset markets in agriculture. This research will inform policy and program design to promote higher levels of participation within the agricultural sector and provide land managers with climate change information and an opportunity for their perspectives to be heard.

Current research is examining climate change impacts and adaptation in Hawke's Bay and Marlborough New Zealand along with a focus on the emissions trading scheme in New Zealand. This project is in conjunction with AgResearch, the largest Crown Research Institute in New Zealand. In Yolo County our multidisciplinary climate change project is assessing farmer adoption of climate change mitigation and adaptation techniques in agriculture and seeking to understand future climate change concerns and perspectives.

Primary Contact: 

Adaptive Rangeland Management

Project Summary: 

We are exploring the institutional and social factors involved with the adoption and diffusion or innovative grazing practices. This is in collaboration with rangeland ecologists who will use an experimental rangeland to measure changes in ecosystem services under different grazing strategies. Survey data will be collected from California and Wyoming ranchers to understand the factors influencing adaptive decision-making.

Primary Contact: 
Project Participants: 

California’s rangelands make up over 15% of the land area in the state. Grazing management decisions in rangelands influence the extent to which lands
(1) provides forage that can support livestock,
(2) stores carbon and nitrogen,
(3) hosts diverse plant and animal communities,
(4) minimizes invasions by weedy species, and
(5) contributes to water storage for human consumption.

The outcomes of grazing choices can have profound influences over local ecology, rural agricultural economies, and the drinking water supplies of all Californians. This study uses ecological and social methods to investigate grazing management practices as they relate to each of these services.

Governing Complex Commons: Policy Networks and the Local Ecology of Games

Project Summary: 

This research analyzes the interaction among policy actors as they seek solutions to to complex policy problems in multiple "governance" games. We study the local ecology of games in the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta (CA), Tampa Bay (FL), and the Parana Delta of Argentina. The research involves surveys of policy stakeholders and statistical models of policy networks. We hope to understand the factors associated with cooperation, adaptive capacity, and resilience in these complex systems.

Primary Contact: 

This research analyzes the interaction among policy actors as they seek solutions to complex, interrelated policy problems in local policy arenas. We want to know how actors decide which problems to tackle, what policymaking venues to participate in, and who to collaborate with in solving the problems. These individual decisions combined with the multiple governance institutions in a policy arena define the local ecology of games.

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