Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Research, 18, (Spring 2008):103-14. © 2008 Copyright by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


The decisions made by individual farmers to adopt conservation practices that improve surface water quality will be of increasing importance in the 21st century. Currently, models attempting to explain pro-environmental behaviors ignore or minimize the role of individual personality characteristics. In this paper we give an overview of current research regarding how personal characteristics influence the adoption of Best Management Practices (BMPs) and propose an expansion of measured characteristics to include farmers' work motivation, environmental attitude, and moral reasoning toward the environment. Our purpose is to spur an interest in understanding the antecedents to the pro-environmental behavior of farmers that benefit surface water quality. We include several propositions regarding the direction of correlation between characteristics and pro-environmental behavior. We propose a positive correlation of pro-environmental behavior with a pro-environmental attitude, ecocentric reasoning about environmental issues, intrinsic process motivation, goal internalization motivation, and a farmer's internal self-concept. We propose a negative correlation between pro-environmental behavior and a low environmental attitude, anthropocentric reasoning about environmental issues, instrumental motivation, and a farmer's external self-concept. We also discuss policy and education implications.