The “mythology” of regenerative agriculture and lack of scientific evidence has prompted two renowned plant scientists to write to Ag Minister Damien O’Connor.
Dr Peter Nuthall and Dr Kevin Old, from the department of land management and systems, have been examining how farmers make their decisions, the role intuition plays and how it can be improved.
Their analysis of farmers’ intuitive decisionmaking is published in Journal of Rural Studies (‘Intuition, the farmers’ primary decision method. A review and analysis’), and Nuthall has published a novel on the same theme.
His novel, The Intuitive Farmer: Inspiring Management Success, tells of a group of farmers who meet to discuss management challenges and skills associated with intuition. Guided by meeting facilitators, the farmers sort out each other’s decision problems, learning and taking on board the lessons. And a new novel will guide farmers through the process of modifying their management style.
The book is available through most international online book sellers, including its publisher 5M.
Nuthall and Old gathered data from at least 700 farmers.
“Farmer intuition has never been analysed to this extent before,” said Nuthall.
The research showed that farmers base most decisions on their intuition. They do not formally analyse each decision but use their mental powers to decide what to do.
“Sometimes a decision is instantaneous, but in others a range of thought levels are brought to bear before acting. Good decision intuition is not a mysterious process,” said Nuthall.
“Profit and other assessments show some farmers are good intuitive decisionmakers, others not so good.”
Farmers with little experience, whether or not they are naturally intuitive, found it difficult to make good decisions.
Nuthall said the intuition process often uses ‘pattern matching’, in which the brain uses experience to match past events with a current problem requiring a decision.
“The farmer [then intuitively] comes up with what the brain believes to be the correct action.”
However, intuition was more than just pattern matching.
“Intuition develops with a farmer’s thought process, self-criticism and review.”
The new research showed how farmers can improve their intuition, he says.