This research investigated empirically the qualities of improved soil management practices (ISMPs) most likely to lead to land user adoption. Land users' perceptions of soil-related constraints were investigated in two hillside districts of eastern Uganda. The research looked at land user rationale for adopting and adapting specific ISMPs at the end of a two-year period of increased advice and support. Land user engagement with soil management improved markedly after this period of support and multifunctionality, that is, provision of a number of different products or benefits, was seen to be a common characteristic of those ISMPs taken up by land users. It is argued that in the search for ‘best-bet’ ISMPs, multifunctionality may be a particularly relevant and easily measurable indicator of likely adoption of a practice by land users. The research also demonstrates the value of supporting land users in their efforts to adapt ISMPs to fit with their own circumstances.