> I think we agree on the need for long-term (more than 2 -3 years at a
> shot) research on production systems. Farmers develop their own
> production systems, and do "research" in a way, though, perhaps they
> don't bring the best design and organization to bear. One approach for
> public R & E, is to enable and empower farmers to do a better job
> studying and developing their own systems.
> this kind of research. Is there any way to develop networks of
> researchers, including farmers, who can execute large-scale R & D?
> Perhaps the seed industry could play a role in information management
> systems, and experimental design, maybe emulate large-scale field
> trialing approaches.
Have a look at a paper by Clark et al. 1996 The structure and
function of agricultural research. Can. J. Plant Sci. 76:603-610.
We discuss some of these issues, but from a different perspective.
We believe that the "zone of inference" or "recommendation domain" (as
Chuck Francis has called it) of agricultural research will shrink in
the future as the ability of producers to purchase inputs to
homogenize their growing environment also declines. The current wide
recommendation domains that allow the same genotypes and the same
management practices to prevail over a geographically large land area
are an artefact caused by cheap inputs. As the cost of the inputs
has risen, so the ability of producers to recreate the environmental
conditions of research stations - and hence, to benefit from the
results of research station research - will decrease.
Look at the article for a better explanation/justification of this,
but the sense of it is that as producers become less and less
dependent upon purchased inputs to stabilize their growing
conditions, then natural sources of heterogeneity will increase. For
example, if one cannot afford to tile drain or apply fungicides to
control pathogens, then unique combinations of stress factors may
arise on each farm. Then, the rank order of cultivars and management
practices that are 'best" on one farm may differ from that on
another. Or even among fields on the same farm. In other words,
farmers will have to become their own researchers - and plant
breeders - identifying what works best for them, or perhaps for a
comparatively few farmers.
The days of selecting and selling widely adapted hybrids or cultivar
may be shortlived, if the growing conditions on the recipient farms
become ever more heterogeneous. In such a situation, the role of a
"researcher" may be profoundly different from what it is today. And
needless to say, so would that of Pioneer and Monsanto. In the
paper, we discuss what agricultural research of the future might look
like, and who it might serve, the questions it might address, and who
might be the beneficiaries of the research. The answers are largely
quite different from answers to the same questions today. Ann
Dr. E. Ann Clark
University of Guelph
Guelph, ON N1G 2W1
Phone: 519-824-4120 Ext. 2508
FAX: 519 763-8933
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