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The use of Twitter for knowledge exchange on sustainable soil management

Mills, Jane, Reed, Matthew, Skaalsveen, Kamilla, Ingram, Julie
Soil use and management 2019 v.35 no.1 pp. 195-203
European Union, farmers, indigenous knowledge, information exchange, interviews, learning, research projects, social networks, soil, soil management
Encouraging the uptake of sustainable soil management practices often requires on‐farm experiential learning and adaptation over a sustained period, rather than the traditional knowledge transfer processes of identifying a problem and implementing a solution. Farmer‐to‐farmer learning networks are emerging with farmers experimenting and sharing knowledge about these practices amongst themselves. One potential communication channel for such interaction and knowledge sharing is social media and Twitter in particular. A content analysis of a Twitter account for an EU research project, SoilCare, and in‐depth qualitative interviews with five farmers using Twitter, was used to illustrate the extent and type of farmer‐to‐farmer knowledge sharing in relation to sustainable soil management practices. Evidence of farmer learning and knowledge sharing on Twitter with respect to these practices was identified. Twitter can capture the immediacy of the field operations and visual impacts in the field. Furthermore, the brief messages channelled through Twitter appeal to time‐constrained farmers. The ability for interaction around particular hashtags in Twitter is developing virtual networks of practice in relation to sustainable soil management. Within these networks, farmer champions are emerging that are respected by other farmers. Twitter works best for those actively seeking information, rather than passive recipients of new knowledge. Therefore, its use with other forms of face‐to‐face interaction as part of a blended learning approach is recommended. Twitter also offers a potential space for other actors, such as researchers and advisers, to interact and share knowledge with farmers.