A transdisciplinary study of agroecological niches: understanding sustainability transitions in vineyards

Naama Teschner, Daniel E. Orenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Despite a widely agreed necessity for agroecological transition, there are various substantial constraints that hinder the adoption of alternative, more sustainable, practices. We employ the niche management concept to examine the initial phases of transition in the local wine-growing niche in Israel, or specifically, the replacement of herbicides with the use of cover-crops combined with the practice of mowing of herbaceous growth using specialized trimming machines. Our goal is to uncover the triggers, drivers and agents of change in farming practices within the agroecological system in which it happened, despite entrenched, widely recognized risk perceptions among farmers. The problem-oriented research design revolved around a transdiciplinary team that included ecologists and social scientists. We identified three groups of frontrunners who initiated, developed and sustained the adoption of the more sustainable agricultural practices. The two-year study focused on interviewing vineyard farmers who were transitioning to cover crops, and this qualitative research was paralleled with continuous ecological monitoring. The farmers believed that the risks inherent in the new practice, if any, were preventable and manageable. The transdisciplinary research design, which integrated farmers into the social and ecological research process, further assisted in facilitating a transition by creating a forum for stimulating communication between diverse stakeholders during the transition, increasing trust between actors from the various sectors and identifying key issues of concern (e.g., risk and associated costs) to better align the motives of farmers, wine-makers, and ecologists. The research design may have also contributed to the adoption of a more holistic view of the agroecological system by various stakeholders and the belief that one cultivation method clearly benefits the system, particularly in the long-term. We therefore conclude with key-insights on the role of the research itself in agroecological transition processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-45
Number of pages13
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • Agroecological transitions
  • Cover-crops
  • Frontrunners
  • Niche management
  • Transdisciplinary research
  • Vineyards

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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