Analysis of farmers' awareness of resistance to azole-based fungicides in cereal production
: Barriers and opportunities of transitioning to alternative agriculture in South West England (SWE)

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science by Research (MScR)

Abstract

In the UK, fungicides represent 38% of the pesticides applied to crops. The main treatment on seeds rely on azole-based fungicides. Azoles are also the principal compound of treatments for people with fungal infections, such as aspergillosis, where there are reports of antifungal resistance. Reducing fungicides and alternative agriculture such as organic, agroecological, regenerative have the potential to address antifungal resistance. 50% of all organic producers in England are situated in SWE, this research qualitative examined the barriers and opportunities for transitioning to alternative agriculture, as experienced by farmers in this region. The study explored antifungal awareness and identified practices to reduce or avoid the use of fungicides. Qualitative research methods, such as walking interviews, graphic elicitation, and timeline mapping, were conducted with 12 farmers and 3 agronomists across SWE, including alternative and conventional. The study identified five key barriers: traditions and identities, economic constraints, knowledge gaps, agro-environmental regulations, and highlighted the complex role of agronomists as both barrier and enablers to transition. Drivers of the agricultural transition include: health and environmental awareness from the use of agrochemicals, individual values, personality, economy and land generational succession and lastly social motivations and legacy aim. Soil health restoration, plant health enhancement, and nitrogen management resulted as the most important of the transition to alternative agriculture. Finally, practices with the potential to avoid and reduce fungicides included cultural practices such as soil health and sheep grazing, reduction of specific agrochemicals like nitrogen, technological alternatives, and the use of alternative products. This study raised awareness that in addressing antifungal resistance, farmers and agronomists behaviours and their relationships are a crucial part of the process. Also contributed with solutions showing positive results from the experience of some of the main actors: farmers and agronomists, demonstrating the importance of social science in the agricultural sector.
Date of Award7 May 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorHelen Thomas-Hughes (Supervisor) & Guy Howard (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Azoles
  • fungicides
  • cereals
  • alternative agriculture
  • farmer
  • agronomist
  • Transition

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