The global dairy sector is a major source of human nutrition and farmer livelihoods, while also generating manure, an important nutrient for crop production, but one that must be managed to minimize environmental risk. Manure management - manure handling, processing, storage and application - is an important part of managing a dairy system. Rising awareness of environmental stewardship is increasing for dairy production that meets multiple sustainability goals. Importantly, a large body of research has identified a suite of potential manure management strategies (MMS) that can contribute to reduced environmental impact, and in some cases, provide additional benefits for farmers and society. Despite this growing body of technical and agronomically-focused research, there has been far less research on farmer decision making and adoption of MMS. To explore this gap, we conduct a systematic literature review of peer-reviewed articles exploring the drivers of farmer adoption and decision making related to MMS. We focus on high-income countries, where MMS strategies are more diverse and often involve advanced technologies. We find 36 articles across Europe, the United States, and Canada and focus on four key areas associated with MMS practices: (1) farm size and structural characteristics associated with MMS adoption including the relationship of certain MMS to each other; (2) existing adoption of MMS practices; (3) socio-economic and regulatory factors associated with MMS adoption; and (4) individual information, attitudes, and demographics associated with MMS adoption. We identify and discuss three gaps in the existing literature: (1) a dearth of studies exploring farmer adoption of MMS, especially from certain highly productive milk regions; (2) a lack of comparative studies across multiple regions and/or across time to identify more direct casual pathways of decision making; and (3) technical and other feasibility needs for future MMS adoption. These suggest a clear pathway for future research to better understand the myriad factors that influence dairy farmer decision making as it relates to MMS.
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Niles MT, Horner C, Chintala R, Tricarico J. A review of determinants for dairy farmer decision making on manure management strategies in high-income countries. Environmental Research Letters. 2019 May 3;14(5):053004.