Abstract

A major unintended risk of modern US agricultural use of pesticides has been pesticide resistance—a situation in which overuse of simplified pesticide-reliant pest management practices results in the loss of pesticide efficacy and results in yield declines, labor and time costs, environmental hazards, and other negative consequences. It has been posited that addressing pesticide resistance will necessitate a transformation in how agriculture is done, including major structural diversification of management practices and the involvement of a broad community of diverse stakeholders co-producing knowledge. Crop advisors—those agronomists providing paid-for agronomic advice to farmers independently or as part of a larger corporation—are one group has a high potential impact on what pesticide resistance management strategies and farmers’ information networks. However, there is minimal research on how crop advisors approach the topic of pesticide resistance with their customers, including the reductionist or reflexive approaches they may draw on in their information provisioning. We explore this topic through a series of regional focus groups intended to uncover crop advisors’ perspectives on structural barriers to resistance management and use of reflexivity in their application of reductionist or iterative knowledge provisioning paradigms. We find that crop advisors recognize complex structural barriers to effective pesticide resistance management; while modern reductionist approaches were evident in attempts to overcome these barriers, crop advisors also engaged in reflexivity and drew on iterative forms of knowledge provisioning, particularly when unaffiliated with an agrichemical company and when working with fewer customers and higher value specialty crops. Additionally, those crop advisors applying a reductionist advising approach did not necessarily adhere to a modernist ideology; rather, we found that most crop advisors were reflexively critical of this approach and preferred a more iterative format but were constrained from taking action on this preference due to structures based in the capitalist industrialized US agricultural system. We propose that reflexivity is present but insufficient to alter patterns of pesticide resistance information and management without significant structural alterations.

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