I looked at the paper, and I believe some of the premises are incorrect.
These fall into three areas: 1) appropriate roles for exp station vs
farmer, 2) forces driving the system, 3) meaning of R & E system in the
political context, and 4) meaning of sustainability in a global context.
IMO the appropriate recommendation domain should be determined in an
ad-hoc manner on the basis of the edapho-climatic region. These are
probably not much different in scope than currently handled by the
system. Domains like "alfalfa seed production in the Northern prairies"
or wheat production in the Palouse" are probably reasonable domains.
In the paper, you seem to imply that the recommendation domains should
be much smaller, and that R & E personnel should be involved in this
adaptive research. But then you say "Responsibility for tailoring,
validating, and implementing the outcome of experiment-station-based
research for commercial agriculture would shift toward the farming
sector." This seems like a contradiction to me. Farmers are already
doing this, so why should R & E people try to? They couldn't do a good
job of it anyway.
You imply that farm technology is being driven and shaped by the R & E
station agenda. Nothing could be further from the truth. The private
sector, including farmers, is setting the agenda. R & E people have to
struggle to keep up and remain relevant. The market-based orientation
of most producers may be banal and short-sighted, but it is being driven
by global market forces that have very little to do with public ag
research. It is silly to blame ag experiment stations for this. They
try to develop useful tools for growers and ag industry, so that the
public will (maybe) keep them around.
The R & E system is the product of post-civil-war progressivism and
populism. It's constituency has largely vanished for demographic
reasons. The main job of administrators is to grope for political
support and kiss-up to whatever interest groups can be identified. This
is completely understandable, though not desirable.
More and more, the adaptive research role of the R & E center is being
performed by sharp private-sector people with cell phones on their
waists, yield monitors on their combines, and portable computers in
their pickup. The hard-core biologists are fleeing toward a more
traditional academic orientation. Hopefully, modes of connection can be
>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.......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.
You seem to be assuming that some big shakeup is coming. Are you pining
for eco-catastrophy or political upheaval? On the contrary, I suspect
that our economic system will keep-on-keepin-on, humans will be fine, in
general, but that wild nature will continue to shrink.
I am surprised at how anthropocentric and trendy this list is. The fact
that a particular cultural practice is "sustainable" for many years, may
not be that important. Sustainability of the global system is
important. Tools come and tools fall away. Rust resistance genes are
discovered, and then overcome by the pathogen, and more genes are
discovered, but the system goes on. Humans seem to be doing pretty well
on Earth, from a biological perspective. I would argue that high-yield
agriculture is one of our best hopes for allowing room for wild nature,
unless you think that a large human die-off should be allowed to occur.
>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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