Factors Affecting Household Use of Organic Fertilizer


New uses of manure can be win-win opportunities for livestock and poultry farmers, new users, and the environment. While there is increasing interest by crop farmers in using manure as a source of nutrients, another potential market is households. This study was conducted to look at factors that affect stated use of organic fertilizer, in order to enable producers and professionals to market this product to homeowners.

What did we do?

A survey of households in the Columbia, Missouri area was conducted in spring of 2014 in order to evaluate current lawn and garden practices with a goal of improving water quality in Hinkson Creek. The response rate was 44%. One question was whether they used an “organic fertilizer (OF, composted manure)”. About 26% of respondents said they used OF but when we excluded people who indicated it was not applicable because they either didn’t use fertilizer at all or used a lawn care company for fertilizer applications, the adoption rate was 32%. A logit regression with OF use as the dependent variable was conducted and results are presented below. The pseudo R2 for the regression was 0.21. Only statistically significant variables are discussed.

What have we learned?

People who indicated that they used soil tests, had installed rain gardens, or who had planted drought tolerant plants were more likely to use OF. These practices had been adopted by 12%, 33% and 3% of households, respectively.  People who fertilized their lawns three or more times per year were less likely to adopt OF.  Those who said they watered their lawns as needed to keep them green were more likely to use OF than people who watered infrequently or only in a drought.  Those who spent more than 10 hours (per month?) gardening were more likely to adopt than those spending less than 10 hours.  People who had heard of the term watershed and knew what it meant were more likely to use OF.  People aged 46-60, or over 60, were less likely to use OF than those in the 31-45 age range. People with household incomes over $75,000 as well as those earning under $25,000 were less likely to use OF than those in the $50-74,999 range. Those who strongly trusted information about water quality from environmental groups were more likely to use OF. Those who get information about fertilizer from the internet were more likely to use OF than those who obtained information from professionals or extension agents.  Users of OF thus seem to be younger, well-informed, serious gardeners that are also more concerned with environmental issues. 

Future Plans  

In the near term, dissemination of this research in a peer-reviewed journal is planned. Future research could examine the specific perceptions that homeowners have about this product to see whether marketing efforts can either counteract incorrect perceptions, or build on the perceived positive attributes of composted manure.


Laura McCann, Associate Professor at the University of Missouri McCannL@missouri.edu

Dong Won Shin, Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Missouri

Additional information             

Dr. Laura McCann, Associate Professor
212 Mumford Hall
Dept. of Agricultural and Applied Economics
Univ. of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211


This project was supported by National Integrated Water Quality Grant Program number 110.C (Award 2012-03652).

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