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Moving Beyond Adoption to Sustainable Climate-Smart Agriculture



Accelerating Sustainable Agriculture

At the Center of Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research (CBEAR), we are leading scientists engaged in experimental research for sustainable agriculture.  A USDA Center of Excellence since 2014, we remain the only producer of behavioral research that applies to agricultural and environmental topics.  Our studies specifically target farming communities with the lowest participation rates; while narrowing down which conservation practices work best for these producers. By using insights from our experiments, we work with policymakers and private institutions to make conservation programs more accessible and sustainable for everyone.


Advance Climate-Smart Sustainability

In agriculture, sustainability means good stewardship of the natural systems and environmental resources needed to produce abundant, high-quality crops. Among other things, this involves crop rotation and diversity, planting cover crops, no-till systems (or reduced till), integrated pest management, integration between livestock and crops, agroforestry practices and precision farming. 

While adoption of these “climate-smart” practices has been on the rise, there is still room for improvement. CBEAR is interested in developing program delivery that targets groups of farmers with relatively low conservation practice adoption, particularly historically underserved producers (HUP).  In order to help this type of producer, we must find out what is getting in their way of accessing conservation programs and this starts with examining the application process.  Programs are more effective if their design considers the characteristics of the target population, and the associated trade-offs between economic, environmental and social outcomes.

We use experimental behavioral science to determine which mix of approaches work best to achieve persistent climate-smart habits.  One primary area to consider is the pathway for enrollment to federal conservation programs.  Our research tests whether various simplifications in the application process can lead more farmers to want to enroll in agri-environmental programs and whether these conservation practices persist over time.  Of course, we also want to ensure that these simplified applications do not lead to higher rates of non-compliance with program rules which is a great place to conduct testing.  

At CBEAR, the questions we ask aim to help conservation practitioners, scientists and producers.  We identify the best ways to ensure program adoption and, importantly, to better understand what leads to persistent conservation practices.




Why experimental behavioral science?

How We Do It



Improving Assistance for Farmers

We use scientific methods that make the case for technical assistance within

conservation programs.


Accelerating Sustainable Smart Practices

We seek to understand how to best ensure that practices persist after they are adopted.


Building an Inclusive Economy

We seek to understand if precision agriculture in crop production can lower overall input use.


Across Rows.  Across Sections. Across Aisles.  

We coordinate with program administrators and policy makers to incorporate behavioral insights and experimental designs into emerging and existing agri-environmental programs.  By plugging directly into these programs, we identify how applications of behavioral science can be used to improve agri-environmental programs. 

Sharing Research Findings

Registration is now open for our annual seminar series.   Each year we offer seminars that are focused on new developments that lead to better conservation programs.  Our next virtual series is scheduled for Spring 2023.

Agronomist Farmer

Our Recent Advanced Research


Recruiting Farmers: Low-Cost and Costly Ways to Increase Farmer Response Rates

Step 1 of getting an agri-environmental program started is recruiting participants. We tested different recruitment strategies and evaluated their cost effectiveness.

Latest News

CBEAR Partners with Field to Market on $70 mil Climate Smart Grant 

The Partnership will research financial mechanisms to encourage farmers to adopt climate-positive agriculture practices.

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Video Personality

Annual CBEAR Virtual Research Seminars Slated for Spring 2023

Stay tuned for an announcement about dates and presenters!

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Economist David Pannell Joins Our Distinguished Fellows List

David Pannell is an esteemed researcher whose work focuses on water and land conservation economics and environmental policy. 


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