Piotr Prus, The role of higher education in promoting sustainable agriculture in:

Loreta Tauginiené (ed.)

Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Ethics in the Central and Eastern Europe, page 99 - 119

Journal of East European Management Studies (JEEMS) ISSN 0949-6181 - Special Issue

1. Edition 2019, ISBN print: 978-3-8487-5704-6, ISBN online: 978-3-8452-9869-6, https://doi.org/10.5771/9783845298696-99

Series: Journal of East European Management Studies (JEEMS) - Sonderbände

Bibliographic information
The role of higher education in promoting sustainable agriculture* Piotr Prus** Abstract Proper education about sustainable farming is essential for future generations of farmers as maintaining sustainable agricultural production requires farmers to have extensive knowledge and practical skills. The aim of the study was to examine the value of the Sustainable Development module in the Agriculture course. The collected data confirmed that the majority of students highly appraised the module. What is more, they were eager to incorporate the ideas of sustainable development in production on their farms. Keywords: education, sustainable development, farming JEL Codes: Q10, I0 Introduction Today’s farming and the rural areas in Poland are constantly changing (Roman/ Nuszkiewicz 2013). Undoubtedly, one of the main reasons for these changes is the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy, aimed at supporting sustainable development of agriculture and the countryside. Despite its declining role in making the country's Gross Domestic Product or its diminishing employment prospects, the role of agriculture in Poland remains firmly established, however its functions are changing considerably. Its principal role is shifting from food production to preserving and maintaining the values of the natural environment (Wojewodzic et al. 2015). The fundamental idea of sustainable farming is the merging of agricultural production with concern for the environment. It can be achieved by using available resources in such a way so as to satisfy farmers’ and consumers’ needs while preserving highly valued assets of the natural environment at the same time. However, in order to maintain sustainable farming production, farmers must meet several criteria (Fehér et al. 2012; Jakobsson 2012) such as a proper balance between different areas of human life: economic, social and ecological (Czyżewski/Brelik 2014). Clearly, the task of maintaining such a harmony presents a considerable challenge (Rydén et al. 2003; Rohweder 2008; Dacko 2015; Gębarowski/Cholewa-Wójcik 2015; Penger et al. 2015; Kowalska et al. 1 * Received: 16.05.2018, accepted: 18.07.2018, 0 revisions. ** Piotr Prus, PhD, UTP University of Science and Technology, Faculty of Agriculture and Biotechnology, Department of Agronomy, Laboratory of Economics and Counselling in Agribusiness, Bydgoszcz, Poland. Email: piotr.prus@utp.edu.pl. Main research interests: sustainable development, sustainable development of rural areas and agriculture, multifunctional development of rural areas. The role of higher education in promoting sustainable agriculture 99 2016; Voegtlin/Scherer 2017). On the one hand, the purpose of farming is to satisfy the needs of farmers and their families thus agricultural production must be performed in such a way so as to replenish the production, and allow for its further economic development. On the other hand, however, production is embedded in its environmental context, and for this reason it must respect its natural assets. Farmers are often faced with the compromise between making a profit and exerting a negative impact on the natural environment, which determines the future of rural areas. In order to make informed decisions, farmers must rely on up-to-date information and professional knowledge (Prus/Drzazdzynska 2017), theoretical and practical know-how providing the source of information about methods, tools and the manner of managing a sustainable farm (Dacko/Dacko 2009; Drangert et al. 2017). Education and higher education as a factor of transformation towards sustainable development People are more and more concerned about the state of the natural environment, and are becoming increasingly aware that the choices they are making today will have a long-lasting effect on its condition in the years to come. The public are not sufficiently prepared to fully comprehend the problems or plan efficient counter measures (Henderson 1992), which is the consequence of poor ecological education. Although they are trying to embrace the sustainable development policy, the transition is accompanied by the increasing economic, social and environmental crisis, for which there are no straightforward solutions. Education, especially higher education, plays a key role in this transformation and helps people to make their ideas about society come true. Universities around the world, which act as scientific and educational centres, are an important instrument in changing the economic development (Margaret et al. 2012) as well as in advancing sustainable development ideas and making them more popular (Espinoza/Ramirez 2008; Atstaja et al. 2017). Sustainable development education, which is realized by means of different interdisciplinary courses, is helping to solve many complex social and environmental problems (Parr et al. 2007). What is more, it provides the knowledge, values and skills (George et al. 2009), which are necessary to make informed decisions about the future. Not only will these decisions improve the lives of contemporary people, but they will also secure the needs of the future generations (Atstaja et al. 2017). Increasing people’s awareness and impeding their harmful behaviour are the key factors which are aimed at limiting the influence of man on the natural environment (Atstaja et al. 2017). The latest social transformations require professionals working in the farming and food industry to adopt new skills too (Tourinho/Quirino 1993; Alibaygi/ Pouya 2011). The new global economy requires them to have access to the latest, up-to-date information. It poses new challenges for the farming industry, 2 100 Piotr Prus farming research and education (Opara 2002). Sustainable agriculture, as mentioned above, is aimed at maintaining harmony between efficient food production while respecting the environmental conditions and requirements at all times (Alonge/Martin 1995; Garcia-Barriocanal et al. 2013). The level of farmers’ influence on the natural environment depends largely on the ecological awareness of farmers. Unfortunately, many of them choose to ignore the impact that farming activities exert on the environment (Pyrovetsi/Daoutopoulos 1999). Promoting sustainable farming, which focuses on such challenges as fighting poverty, famine and social exclusion requires educating a brand new, previously unknown type of experts who specialize in farming production (Lopez/Alpuche 2013). The group which is most likely to realize the impact of the farming production on the environment are young farmers with a university degree (Pyrovetsi/Daoutopoulos 1999). This is why we should take the initiative now, start designing and implementing new modules and courses for the students of Agriculture, which will help them realize the importance of the environment factor in their future work, allow them to increase their professional competence (Migliorini/Lieblein 2016), change their attitudes and make them more pro-ecological at the same time. This comprehensive ecological education will enable the future farmers to take on the leading role in promoting sustainable farming methods (Opara 2002). The interdisciplinary educational courses on sustainable farming help farmers to acquire new skills (George et al. 2009) and to build confidence while making decisions about their production. When one considers the increased demand for business operations, which are based on sustainable practices (Barham 1997; Aceleanu 2016), it becomes obvious that those graduates who have the necessary knowledge and skills in the field of sustainable agricultural methods will become more competitive on the demanding food and farming market (Burja/Burja 2007; Byrne et al. 2013; Simtion 2015). Sustainable farming – theoretical background Sustainable agriculture relies on the use of natural methods of husbandry (Altieri 1995; Runowski/Ziętara 2010; Bučiene 2012). Having said that, it allows the use of chemicals (such as mineral fertilizers or crop protection substances: pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, etc.) in farming production but, at the same time, it strongly recommends to use them temporarily, and reasonably. A sensible and balanced use of all available resources of the environment allows farmers to minimize the use of chemicals, to reduce the negative footprint of agriculture on the environment, and reduce soil and air pollution while maintaining a high level of soil fertility. Until recently the favoured agriculture model in many countries was intensive farming and simplicity in growing crops. This policy resulted in increased numbers of pests, diseases and weed. The so-called "conventional farming methods" rely heavily on material input such as the use of chemicals, which protect the 3 The role of higher education in promoting sustainable agriculture 101 crops and guarantee steady and abundant production (Gozzo 2003; Oerke 2006). Although the use of chemicals in fighting different types of pests and crop diseases has been very popular among farmers in Poland (Wójtowicz/Wójtowicz 2009), unfortunately it is also responsible for polluting the natural environment, to a lesser or greater degree. In order to eliminate the danger of using large amounts of chemicals, sustainable agriculture favours using methods such as the integrated plant protection. It reduces the amount of chemicals used by incorporation of mechanical and biological crop protection methods (Kapitsa 2012; Sigvald 2012; Torstensson 2012). The aim of these procedures is to reduce the number of pathogens to manageable numbers in which they pose no risk to crops. As mentioned earlier, farmers should only resort to using chemicals as an intervention measure, for example when the pathogens approach or exceed the economic harm threshold. Without a doubt, agriculture depends on fertilization and mineral fertilizer, which increases crop yield and improves its quality, and is commonly used in conventional farming (Millet/Feldman 1984; Arundale et al. 2014). Although nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus are the elements boosting plant growth, their overuse may have serious negative consequences (Papageorgiou 2012). By contrast, in sustainable farming the amount of fertilizer is precisely calculated and adjusted according to numerous factors such as: the potential of the habitat, its soil and climate conditions, the number of micro- and macro elements in the soil, fertilizing requirements of crops at different stages of their development, crop yield potential, etc. (Duer/Fotyma 1999). When using organic or chemical fertilizer, the appropriate timing and the balanced use are the essential factors which must be considered by farmers. The objective of sustainable agricultural production is to use the Earth's resources in such a way so as to cater for producers and consumers not only today but also in the future. In order to meet these goals, farmers must possess extensive practical knowledge and skills allowing them to use the natural resources in the best possible way (Grigoraş 2008; Conway/Barbier 2013). It is hoped that by doing so, farmers will limit the use of unnecessary chemicals (DeLonge et al. 2016) and, consequently, the human impact on the environment would be more bearable while maintaining the same production levels. Another advantage of such activities would be the improvement of living conditions for rural dwellers, maintaining food production, and delivering other farming products such as high-quality bio fuels, which are becoming increasingly popular (Szulc et al. 2013). This complex approach of sustainable development towards farming encompasses several dimensions such as economic, ecological, social and ethical. Therefore, it is particularly important that the academic curricula for students of the Agriculture course include a sustainable development module, and thoroughly 102 Piotr Prus discuss the subject. Students must be taught the difficult task of combining production (economic goals), requirements of the environment (ecological goals) and expectations of the society (social goals). In the light of the above, education on sustainable development should be both formal and informal and, due to its importance, delivered through different channels. Students should learn about sustainable development not only in schools or universities, but also outside the classroom (Świtała 2013). This approach, however, requires serious changes in the whole of the education paradigm, making it more future-oriented at every level. It should point towards the most important objectives of social development, and clearly outline the role of different sectors of the national economy. In other words, the whole educational system should be based on the same universal principles including moral and ethical values (Corlett 2005; Nijhof et al. 2012; Roy 2012; Bieliauskaitė 2013; Świtała 2015; Tauginienė/Jurkevičius 2017). Study objectives, material and research methods When preparing an attractive educational offer, which should meet the expectations of the contemporary society, it is very important to diagnose the students’ needs in this respect first (Alibaygi/Pouya 2011; Nabilou/Khorasani-Zavareh 2014; Puscas 2015; Sandler/Sushchenko 2016). The aim of the study was to assess the expectations of the students of Agriculture (second degree studies) regarding the Sustainable Development course1. They were asked to provide opinion about the scope of the subject, the choice of the individual topics discussed, the content quality, their will to take a similar course which would explore the subject in more detail in the future, and their willingness to recommend the course to other students. The students’ responses were balanced against the sustainable farming activities they declared to pursue on their own farms. This is how the author planned to determine if the knowledge the students had obtained would be used in practice. The author used the diagnostic poll method including surveys in order to collect empirical data. The questionnaire form included twelve questions with a complete set of possible answers. The first questions checked the respondents’ opinion about the quality of the course. They were asked to assess the scope of the subject, the choice of individual topics, the overall content quality, and the value of such module for the whole course. The subsequent questions checked if the respondents were willing to take part in further courses expanding their knowl- 4 1 The Sustainable Development course is taught during the first semester of the second degree studies of Agriculture (at the Faculty of Agriculture and Biotechnology, at the UTP University of Science and Technology in Bydgoszcz, Poland). The course has been taught in cooperation with the Baltic University Programme, which is a network of over 200 universities from the Baltic Sea region, which is coordinated by the centre at the Uppsala University in Sweden. The role of higher education in promoting sustainable agriculture 103 edge of the course topic, and if they would recommend the course to other students. The survey also included two questions which checked if students were aware of the need to protect the natural environment, and the impact farming exerts on it. Finally, several questions in the survey checked practical aspects of farming production, as performed on the students’ farms, especially if the respondents observed the guidelines listed in the Good Farming Practice Code (Duer/Fotyma 1999), which reflect the sustainable farming directives. It was hoped that the survey would provide valuable information of whether the theoretical knowledge obtained in the course of their study has any practical application in the students’ professional farming career. The survey was complimented by the general and structured interview techniques in order to extend data content. The respondents were also asked numerous non-standard questions, which allowed for an even more comprehensive approach to the problem. The study was carried out between 2014 and 2017 among a group of 155 students of Agriculture who had completed the Sustainable Development module. They either had already been farm owners, or lived on farms managed by their parents, and would inherit the farm in the future. Thus, the choice of the group was not random, and its members were pre-selected to participate in the study. The respondents, who will become farmers in the future, will determine the image of farming in the Kujawsko-pomorskie province and, possibly, also in the neighbouring areas. It was noted that the group exhibited extraordinary interest in their profession when compared to other farmers. They were eager to learn and extend their farming competence. Having completed their vocational or secondary schools, and the first degree studies, they pursued their education further, and started their second degree studies. As stressed by numerous authors (Van den Ban/Hawkins 1996; Zawisza/Pilarska 2005; Świtała 2012), people who keep an open mind to new challenges are aware of the fact that practical skills alone are not enough, and that theoretical background is essential. Prospective farmers can understand that meeting the increasing demands of the market requires them to build and expand their knowledge base. It is not only the professional know-how but the general knowledge, which helps to understand complicated mechanisms between numerous variables, playing a key role in production and economic output. Only by combining formal education, know-how, practical and organization skills can farmers perform successfully, and use all available assets for production. Following these guidelines will guarantee successful performance on the ever more competitive farming market (of food and non-food products). Furthermore, different surveys and studies regard having formal education as the measure of one's skills and professional knowledge (Wawrzyniak/Wojtasik 2005; Kalinowski 2011). According to the Diffusion of Innovations Theory (Rogers 1995; Van den Ban/ Hawkins 1996; Zawisza/Pilarska 2005), the studied group of students can be considered as innovators whose attitudes will create a cascade effect. 104 Piotr Prus The author also aimed to find if there were any differences in opinions between respondents who participated in the survey in different years, and between those who managed small and large farms2. For this reason the empirical data was processed using the statistical hypothesis verification methods, which helped to establish the convergence and correlation coefficients between the respondents’ answers and the selected variables in the studied group. The data analysis was performed in two different stages. First, the author tried to establish if the relationship existed at all, and if so, how strong it was and which directions it followed. To test the hypothesis, the chi-squared test (χ2) was used. The analysis was performed with the significance level α=0.01 (which allowed to verify the hypotheses confirming the correlation with the probability rate of 99.9%). The following hypotheses were tested: (1) H0 – no relationship between the studied variables, (1) H1 – there is a relationship between the studied variables. Having confirmed the relationship between the variables (the calculated χ2 values were higher than the χ2 values from the table with the significance level α=0.01, which allowed to obtain results with high accuracy), the author was determined to establish its character (direction) and strength. For this reason the C Pearson's contingency coefficient and the g convergent were calculated. Bearing in mind that the g convergent can assume different values depending on which variable is treated as dependent or independent, it was calculated twice for the two separate cases: grc (row-to-column convergent) and gcr (column-to-row convergent). When the relationship between the characteristics could not be accurately verified (the calculated χ2 values were lower than those from the table), neither the Pearson's contingency coefficient nor the g convergent were calculated (Gruszczyński 1986; Sobczyk 2004; Babbie 2003; Dziekański 2017). The calculations proved the absence of statistically relevant differences between the answers provided by the respondents who participated in the study in different years. Therefore, it can be argued that the respondents’ answers were similar irrespective of the year in which they participated in the survey. For this reason the “time of the survey” factor was not taken into consideration in this paper. However, the statistical analyses proved the existence of a number of certain relevant discrepancies between the respondents belonging to the two groups, which differed in farm size (Table 1). The respondents had distinct opinions regarding the quality assessment of the merits of the subject of the Sustainable Development course. What is more, they also presented different views concerning cer- 2 The arable land is the crucial factor which determines a farm's production capacity. In order to distinguish between the two groups of respondents, the author chose the size of 15 ha (arable land). The figure reflects the Kujawsko-pomorskie province average of 15.30 ha (2014), 15.40 ha (2015), 15.51 ha (2016), and 15.77 ha (2017). In comparison, the average farm size for the whole country was 10.48 ha (2014), 10.49 ha (2015), 10.56 ha (2016), 10.65 (2017). Data source: The Agency for Restructuring and Modernization of Agriculture (ARMA) website: http://www.arimr.gov.pl/pomoc-krajowa/srednia-powierzchnia-gos podarstwa.html (accessed on 10th December 2017.). The role of higher education in promoting sustainable agriculture 105 tain aspects of farming production such as: the type of farming production, adhering to the NPK guidelines when calculating fertilizer amounts, having up-todate soil fertility maps and introducing after-crop plants. Table 1: Correlation between the respondents' opinion and their farm size – the chi-squared test (χ2), the C Pearson's contingency coefficient and the g convergent results Specification Farm size χ2 α=0.01 χ2 C grc gcr General content of the course 9.210 0.347 - - - Choice of topic units 9.210 1.743 - - - Quality assessment of the merits of the subject 9.210 10.314* 0.250 0.000 0.105 Willingness to take part in similar courses in the future 11.345 1.451 - - - Readiness to recommend the course to other students 11.345 0.985 - - - Awareness of the impact of agriculture on the natural environment 6.635 0.041 - - - Feeling responsible to protect natural environment 6.635 1.595 - - - Production type 9.210 16.015* 0.306 0.000 0.105 Taking into account the amount of NPK in organic fertilizers when calculating the total dose of fertilizers 6.635 19.863* 0.337 0.164 0.193 Having current soil fertility maps 6.635 17.168* 0.316 0.152 0.018 Introducing after-crop plants 6.635 9.738* 0.243 0.000 0.088 Performing agricultural operations in optimum time 6.635 2.808 - - - *Figure is significant for α=0.01 It should be stressed at this point that the respondents who participated in the survey were students of the UTP University of Science and Technology in Bydgoszcz. They live in the Kujawsko-pomorskie province, where farming has long-established traditions and has significant influence on the economy of the region. Farming here is highly developed and characterized by maintaining firm bonds with the market. The majority of farms are family businesses, which have been run for generations. The size of the arable land is above the national average. It was particularly interesting to investigate the opinions of future farmers from the Kujawsko-pomorskie area as their activities are going to shape the future of farming in the area economically, socially and environmentally. 106 Piotr Prus Research results and discussion The Sustainable Development course range is extensive and provides a thorough insight into the complexity and multidimensional structure of the concept. The course begins with an introduction, which presents several general ideas about the subject, which are followed by its historical background, ethics and future prospects. It then proceeds to discuss the following problems: supplying energy and its consumption in the light of recent climate changes (fossil fuels vs. renewable energy sources, including bio fuels); the use of renewable and non-renewable resources (resource cycle, its extraction and consumption limitations); commodity production and consumption; providing and using services; people's lifestyles; demand for natural resources (including agricultural production such as food and non-food products); land use (for farming and non-farming purposes such as urban development); increased human mobility and the resulting challenges; changes in demography; local, domestic and international policies; the need for international co-operation with a view to implement the sustainable development ideas (education, changes in lives of individuals and societies, ecological economy, political changes, the role of democracy, etc.). The research results indicate that the respondents had a high regard for the overall scope of the course (41.3% “very positive” answers, and 42.6% “moderately positive” answers) and the choice of individual topics (55.5% “very positive” answers, and 27.7% “moderately positive” answers), which added to the coherence of the whole course. No negative feedback was registered. A few respondents selected “neither positive nor negative” field, arguing that they found it difficult to provide unambiguous answer (16.1% regarding the general scope of the course, and 16.8% regarding the choice of topics). The differences in answers between the two groups of respondents, who were distinguished according to the farm size, were statistically irrelevant (see Table 1). However, with regards to the quality assessment of the merits of the subject, the differences between the two groups were more pronounced (see Table 1). It appears that students from bigger farms (exceeding 15 ha) were more willing to give higher marks than their colleagues from smaller farms. The latter group also included more students who were not able to answer the question unambiguously (Figure 1). However, nobody answered this question in the negative. The majority of the polled students declared a willingness to participate in further follow-up courses about sustainable development (31.6% answered “definitely”, and 37.4% answered “probably”) and, the same time, they were eager to recommend the course to other students (36.8% answered “definitely”, and 42.6% answered “probably”). However, despite the earlier positive feedback regarding the subject matter and choice of topics, a few respondents (10.3%) claimed they would not be interested in expanding their existing knowledge regarding the topic. During the structured interviews a few students claimed that 5 The role of higher education in promoting sustainable agriculture 107 attending a single course is enough to learn about sustainable development, and that it gives solid ground for comprehensive understanding of the matter. Instead of attending a similar course, they preferred to spend time and concentrate on other, typically vocational subjects and training. Several students opined that information about sustainable agriculture should be provided as an integral part of other compulsory professional subjects taught at the university. Few students expressed no wish to recommend the course to their colleagues (7.7% answered “unlikely”). During the interviews several students observed that it would be a good idea to include sustainable development ideas into existing subjects, those which are already a part of the curriculum, rather than creating a separate study subject. These opinions were expressed by the examined students regardless of the size of their farm (see Table 1). The vast majority of the respondents were aware of the footprint that agricultural production exerts on the environment (78.1% answered “definitely”, and 21.9% answered “probably”), and recognized the need for its preservation (76.8% “definitely” and 23.2% “probably” answers). Again, these opinions were expressed by students from both groups, irrespectively of the size of their farm (see Table 1). None of the respondents provided a negative feedback. The study results of the attitudes of Polish farmers towards ideas of sustainable development, carried out by Dacko and Płonka (2017), proved unequivocally that farmers do realize the need for implementing sustainable solutions in agriculture. In their study, the vast majority of the respondents (72% of farmers, and 70% of non-farming workers respectively) realized the need to introduce sustainable development Figure 1: Quality assessment of the merits of the subject 108 Piotr Prus ideas into practice. A considerable shift in attitudes has been observed with regards to the earlier ecology awareness studies conducted among Polish farmers (Majewski et al. 2002). In 2002, a mere 20 to 30 percent of farmers were concerned about environmental problems. Considering the current promising situation, the change in farmers' attitudes is evident. Agriculture is a vital part of the country's economy which depends on the natural environment. While using its natural resources, this branch of the economy is also responsible for shaping and developing its quality. It must be stressed, however, that the current study was carried out among Master's Degree students, whose knowledge about sustainable agriculture is probably more extensive than that of an average farmer. Maintaining a sustainable agricultural production requires farmers to use appropriate methods of production organization and management, allowing for the optimum use of such aspects as land, labour and capital (Helander 1997; Röling/ Wagemakers 2000; Jakobsson 2012). For this type of agriculture, the high qualifications of farmers and substituting material input with knowledge base are particularly important. Factors such as know-how and practical experience are indispensable for efficient planning and production management. By competent use of natural resources, they can guarantee the leading market and social position. In order to release the full potential of a farm and its natural resources, farmers should pursue both animal and plant production (Duer/Fotyma 1999; Lantinga et al. 2000). Optimistically, the majority of the respondents were aware of this idea, which was reflected in their production (Figure 2). However, considerable statistical discrepancies between the two groups appeared (see Table 1). Students from smaller farms more frequently opted for mixed production with respect to their colleagues from bigger farms. On the other hand, those from smaller farms often pursued animal production only. This type of production may have detrimental effects as far as maintaining balance in the environment is concerned, and can also lead to problems with managing the extensive amounts of manure. This predicament may be solved however. The solution, as suggested by the students, is to arrange for the excess manure to be used by neighbours, or to use it as fuel in a bio gas plant, etc. Combining both types of production (plant and animal) allows for better use of crops which, after processing, can be used as animal feed. Such operations may be especially useful in times of crop purchase price fluctuations. They generate more gross income per hectare of arable land and per one full-time employee (Kuś et al. 2000). What is more, manure produced by animals is a perfect fertilizer, and in certain cases it may even become the main source of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium). Needless to say, by delivering manure to fields farmers can save money which they would otherwise have to spend on mineral fertilizers. However, applying mineral and organic fertilizers simultaneously requires farmers to have comprehensive know-how and practical skills. They must be aware of the The role of higher education in promoting sustainable agriculture 109 mineral content of all fertilizer types, and be able to balance dosages to obtain a desired effect. It must be remembered that applying too much organic fertilizer is as harmful for the environment as overdosing with the mineral one (Duer/Fotyma 1999). The information about mineral composition of organic fertilizers and maximum dosages can be found in literature and specialist charts. Farmers should familiarize themselves with recommended fertilizer dosages, calculate the amount required for their purposes and use them accordingly. When in doubt they can always rely on professional advice from agricultural advisors. More than half of all the respondents claimed to take the amounts of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) contained in organic fertilizers into consideration when preparing fertilizer dosages (Figure 3). Interestingly, considerable statistical differences were observed between students living in smaller and bigger farms (see Table 1). The latter group paid more attention to correct calculation and preparation of dosages than the former one. NPK amounts are not the only factor which must be considered by farmers when preparing fertilizer dosage. A separate matter is to determine the macro element content which can be absorbed into the soil, and its range of acidity and alkalinity (the pH factor). Such analyses are performed by specialist chemical-agricultural centres. They should be carried out every four to six years, and farmers should also have the soil fertility maps (Duer/Fotyma 1999). Unfortunately, the majority of the respondents did not have any up-to-date information regarding the pH factor or the mineral composition records (Figure 4), which renders fertilizing operations ineffective from the economic and ecological perspective. In Figure 2: Preferred production type 110 Piotr Prus such a case it is impossible to apply rational fertilizer dosages, and their preparation is based more on assumptions rather than on actual calculations. According to the statistical analyses (see also Table 1), more than half of the large farm owners used current soil fertility maps when planning fertilizing operations, while only one out of five small farm owners claimed to have the maps. Figure 4: Having current soil fertility maps Figure 3: Taking into account the amount of NPK in organic fertilizers when calculating the total dose of fertilizers The role of higher education in promoting sustainable agriculture 111 A rational management of mineral composition in soil humus consists of compensating for differences between plant mineral demand and the amount of minerals available in the soil after fertilizing (mineral, organic or after-crop plants left over after harvest). Because of their high organic and mineral content, aftercrop plants were often employed by the examined students as popular fertilizing techniques (Figure 5). Figure 5: Introducing after-crop plants In sustainable agriculture it is particularly important that all agro-technical operations (such as soil cultivation, mechanical weed removal, organic and/or mineral fertilizing, biological and/or chemical protection of crops etc.) are performed in optimum time. By doing so farmers can drastically increase the efficiency of the operations and prevent soil degradation. The study results showed that most of the respondents (61.3%), regardless of their farm size (see Table 1), declared performing agro-technical operations in optimum times. However, they also stressed that there were cases when, despite farmers' efforts, maintaining the optimum time was not possible due to unforeseen circumstances such as weather conditions, machinery breakdowns, extensive workload, or the human factor such as a farmer being sick or indisposed. Conclusions The study proved that the majority of the polled students highly valued the content of the Sustainable Development course, its purposes and the range of discussed topics. They would not hesitate to recommend the course to other students, and would like to extend their knowledge about the subject in the future. Most of the participants of the course were fully aware of the impact that agricultural production exerts on the natural environment, and understood the need 6 112 Piotr Prus for its protection and preservation. According to the survey, there is a high probability that the participants of the course will implement the guidelines of sustainable development in their future agricultural endeavours. The majority of the respondents declared mixed farm production (plant and animal), complied with appropriate times when performing agro-technical operations, relied on aftercrops (the "green fertilizer") in crop rotation, and observed the amounts of NPK when calculating dosages to be used with organic fertilizers – although it appeared that the students from bigger farms were more conscientious in the last regard. Unfortunately, certain shortcomings in operating sustainable farming were also revealed in the study. It appears that particularly students from smaller farms often tend to neglect regular checks of the mineral content of the soil or its pH values. During the structured interviews the respondents stressed that by participating in the interdisciplinary course, which involved numerous aspects of human activity, they could broaden their perspective and have a more complex understanding of the current problems regarding maintaining the balance between the economic and social needs, and the requirements of the natural environment. What is more, they became aware of the responsibility involved in the farming occupation and, having completed the course, they have started paying more attention to their farming practices and revised some of them. The respondents emphasized the value of such courses, which not only provide the participants with additional knowledge or skills, but broaden the horizons and enable people to see new pieces of information and the relationships between them. Such positive feedback from the research confirms that introducing the Sustainable Development course into the Agriculture students’ curriculum was indeed beneficial, raising the ecological awareness among them and making them realize what a precious resource the natural environment is. It appears that the key factor for successful sustainable agricultural production is the raising of its awareness among farmers. The majority are already aware of the problems in the environment, and try to build up know-how and develop skills on their own. Farmers also tend to take their own initiatives because, according to Dacko and Płonka (2017), they have a strong sense of sustainability and strive to maintain equilibrium in the natural environment. Ignoring sustainable management of natural resources often leads to making inappropriate decisions in agricultural production which, in turn, harms the environment. The reason for such a situation is not the lack of goodwill on the part of farmers but their difficulty in obtaining the know-how or necessary information (Aggelopoulos et al. 2016). Last but not least, the study findings and analysis were based upon a relatively small group of farmers, consisting of the second-degree students of Agriculture who either already managed their farms or were soon going to do so. The study The role of higher education in promoting sustainable agriculture 113 is not fully comprehensive in the sense that it is merely a diagnosis performed on a small group of respondents and, as such, is not universal and the findings cannot be referred to all farms. Because of the fact that the students who participated in the study had previously taken the Sustainable Development course, it can be assumed that their knowledge of the subject was above the average when compared to other students of Agriculture. This claim can be verified by the feedback they provided. 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State and Local Government, Tourism and Development, Personnel Management, Business Ethics, Social Responsibility, Ethics Management, Empirical Data, Ethical Leadership, Public and private Sector, Health, agriculture, CSR



This Issue begins with a paper by Kirchmayer, Remišová and Lašáková on ethical leadership in public and private organisations in Slovakia. Authentic leadership and interpersonal conflicts in Poland are further taken up by Sypniewska and Gigol. Perceptions of the ethical climate in Serbian tourism industry are explored by Dragin, Jovanović, Mijatov, Majstorović and Dragin. Prus takes us to the promotion of sustainable agriculture through the focused higher education on agriculture in Poland. Saveanu, Abrudan, Saveanu and Matei call for finding out predictors of CSR in small and medium enterprises operating in Romania. Potocan, Mulej and Nedelko at-tempt empirical investigation of employees’ attitudes towards natural, social and economic aspects of CSR in Slovenian organisations during two periods – economic crisis and recovery for a post-transition context. Rybnikova and Toleikienė turn to formal and informal elements of ethics management infrastructure in Lithuanian local government. This Issue concludes with a research note on the development towards corporate sustainability (morality and responsibility) in Estonian business by Kooskora and Cundiff.


Den Sonderband eröffnet ein Beitrag von Kirchmayer, Remišová und Lašáková über ethische Führung in öffentlichen und privaten Organisationen in der Slowakei. Authentische Führung und zwischenmenschliche Konflikte in Polen werden von Sypniewska und Gigol weiter aufgegriffen. Die Wahrnehmung des ethischen Klimas in der serbischen Tourismusindustrie wird von Dragin, Jovanović, Mijatov, Majstorović und Dragin untersucht. Prus untersucht die Förderung einer nachhaltigen Landwirtschaft durch die gezielte Hochschulbildung zur Landwirtschaft in Polen. Saveanu, Abrudan, Saveanu und Matei fordern, die Prädiktoren für CSR in kleinen und mittleren Unternehmen in Rumänien zu erforschen. Potocan, Mulej und Nedelko versuchen, die Einstellungen der Mitarbeiter zu natürlichen, sozialen und wirtschaftlichen Aspekten von CSR in slowenischen Organisationen während zweier Perioden - Wirtschaftskrise und Erholung für einen Kontext nach dem Übergang - empirisch zu untersuchen. Rybnikova und Toleikienė wenden sich den formalen und informellen Elementen der Infrastruktur für das Ethikmanagement in der litauischen Selbstverwaltung zu. Diese Ausgabe schließt mit einem Forschungsbericht über die Entwicklung der Nachhaltigkeit (Moral und Verantwortung) in der estnischen Wirtschaft durch Kooskora und Cundiff.


State and Local Government, Tourism and Development, Personnel Management, Business Ethics, Social Responsibility, Ethics Management, Empirical Data, Ethical Leadership, Public and private Sector, Health, agriculture, CSR