Review Paper

The starting point for the Rural Practice Change team was this published review paper.


Research on adoption of rural innovations is reviewed and interpreted through a cross-disciplinary lens to provide practical guidance for research, extension and policy relating to conservation practices. Adoption of innovations by landholders is presented as a dynamic learning process. Adoption depends on a range of personal, social, cultural and economic factors, as well as on characteristics of the innovation itself. Adoption occurs when the landholder perceives that the innovation in question will enhance the achievement of their personal goals. A range of goals is identifiable among landholders, including economic, social and environmental goals. Innovations are more likely to be adopted when they have a high ‘relative advantage’ (perceived superiority to the idea or practice that it supersedes), and when they are readily trialable (easy to test and learn about prior to adoption). Non-adoption or low adoption of a number of conservation practices is readily explicable in terms of their failure to provide a relative advantage (particularly in economic terms), and/or a range of difficulties that landholders may have in trialing them.

The paper was written in response to the needs of the Cooperative Research Centre for Plant-Based Management of Dryland Salinity, but subsequently proved to be of interest to many others.

The paper became the most downloaded paper for that journal.


The motivation for the first Symposium was to celebrate this achievement. The paper stayed at number 1 for more than three years, before the journal stopped displaying that list of most-downloaded papers.

In February 2012, this paper became the most cited paper ever published by this journal, out of 2348 published papers. At that time, it had 136 citations in other journal articles.

If you or your organisation subscribes to Animal Production Science (the new name for the Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture) you can access the paper at: Non-subscribers can buy a copy on-line for A$25 or email to ask for a copy

A summary version of the paper is available here:

Pannell, D.J., Marshall, G.R., Barr, N., Curtis, A., Vanclay, F. and Wilkinson, R. (2006). Adoption of conservation practices by rural landholders, Connections: Farm, Food and Resource Issues, here

Here is another recommended review paper that might otherwise be hard to find:

Lindner R.K. (1987). Adoption and diffusion of technology: an overview. In: ‘Technological change in postharvest handling and transportation of grains in the humid tropics’. (Eds. B.R. Champ, E. Highley, J.V. Remenyi) pp. 144-151. (ACIAR Proceedings No. 19, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research: Canberra). download here

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