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Innovation, Cooperation, and the Perceived Benefits and Costs of Sustainable Agriculture Practices

Mark Lubell, UC Davis
Vicken Hillis, UC Davis
Matthew Hoffman, UC Davis


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A central goal of most sustainable agriculture programs is to encourage growers to adopt practices that jointly provide economic, environmental, and social benefits. Using surveys of outreach professionals and wine grape growers, we quantify the perceived costs and benefits of sustainable viticulture practices recommended by sustainability outreach and certification programs. We argue that the mix of environmental benefits, economic benefits, and economic costs determine whether or not a particular practice involves decisions about innovation or cooperation. Decision making is also affected by the overall level of knowledge regarding different practices, and we show that knowledge gaps are an increasing function of cost and a decreasing function of benefits. How different practices are related to innovation and cooperation has important implications for the design of sustainability outreach programs. Cooperation, innovation, and knowledge gaps are issues that are likely to be relevant for the resilience and sustainability of many different types of social-ecological systems.

Key words

cooperation; innovation; knowledge networks; resilience; sustainability; sustainable agriculture
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087