What drives farmers’ decision-making? To inform effective, efficient, and legitimate governance of agricultural soils, it is important to understand the behaviour of those who manage the fields. This article contributes to the assessment and development of innovative soil governance instruments by outlining a comprehensive understanding of the determinants of farmers’ behaviour and decision-making. Our analysis synthesises empirical literature from different disciplines spanning the last four decades on various farm-level decision-making problems. Based on a conceptual framework that links objective characteristics of the farm and the farmer with behavioural characteristics, social-institutional environment, economic constraints, and decision characteristics, empirical findings from 87 European studies are presented and discussed. We point out that economic constraints and incentives are very important, but that other factors also have significant effects, in particular pro-environmental attitudes, goodness of fit, and past experience. Conversely, we find mixed results for demographic factors and symbolic capital. A number of potentially highly relevant yet understudied factors for soil governance are identified, including adoption of technologies, advisory services, bureaucratic load, risk aversion and social capital, social norms, and peer orientation. Our results emphasise the importance of a broad behavioural perspective to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and legitimacy of soil governance.
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