"ON FARM RESEARCH PROGRAMME FOR
THE FIRST SEtSON OF A FARMING
SYSILMS RESEARCH PROJECT"
This report was written in fulfillment
of a consultancy by Clive Lightfoot
for UISAIDO/totswana to the'"
Agricultural Techrology Improvement Project,
between the 28 October and 26 f;ovember, 1982
P 0 Box 90
Agricultural Technology Improvement Project
Department of Agricultural Research
Private Bag Cr,33
The consultant started work in late October when the main focus of work was
the preparation and implementation of the on-farm research program for the
first season. The project team in the previous month had selected two rep-
resentative villages, conducted exploratory surveys in each village, designed
and decided on tentative recommendation domain, executed a sample frame
survey, and were in the process of selecting farmers for the socio-economic
case studies and the on-farm agronomic experimentation. The main purpose
of the consultancy was to assist the agronomist in designing the first sea-
sons experimental work. The assistance took the form of field visits to
demonstrate on-farm rescdrch techniques and developing with the agronomist
details of the field research methods.
In terms of the contribution of the consultancy it is useful to clarify where
the issues addressed during the consultancy fit in the overall research pic-
ture. The work already carried out is shown in Figure One and the research
issues addressed in this report fit in at the bottom as indicated.
Figure One: Work in Progress
Stage: Descriptive / diagnostic (preliminary)
Review of secondary
inf rma t ion
Tentative definition of
S bmples selection.
Stages: Descriptive/ Design Testing
On-farm research program
during the first cropping
Key: R = researcher
F = farmer
M = managed
I = implemented
Use body of "Experi
knowledge form^ stati
: RM, RI
FM, F. **....g.g*... g__** ..g.g*******
,. g.e..... O@@0000600g 000gC
This report provides a framework for agro-economic research with particular
reference to the first season of a Farming System Research effort. The
report focuses on the agronomic component and only indicates the links to
be made with the economic component. These links, however, are crucial to
the success of a farming systems research project. Although the agronomist
investigates the agronomic aspects and the economist the socio-economic
aspects, the farmer views these components as one and so should the two
disciplines be inexorably drawn together.
Farming Systems Research recognizes four stages of work Descriptive/Diag-
nostic, Design, Testing and Extension (See Figure Two). These four stages
are carried out consecutively and also are iterative. Thus at some time
the stages will run concurrently. In the first season the descriptive/diag-
nostic stage most receive the greatest attention because upon this the rest
of the research effort will be built. There is danger in moving straight
to the design and testing of technologies without understanding existing
agronomic practices. This can and does result in the research at work 'fine
tuning' a technology that a few if any farmers adopt and at best understan-
ding why farmers don't adopt the technology. To minimise the danger FSR
researchers must initially focus on understanding existing agronomic prac-
tices and diagnosing farmers' problems and potentials. Since the design
and testing of interventions are directly related to the outcome of descrip-
tion and diagnosis, the report presented here develops in consideraLle
detail the method for description and diagnosis of existing agronomic prac-
The report is divided into five sections. Sections one through to four form
the bulk of the report. They cover the main areas of research: the descrip-
tive, diagnostic, design and testing stages of research. Each section
presents the objectives, methods of fieldwork, and assessmentsfor the stages
of FSR. The objectives and the type of field work of course differ among
the stages of research. Simply, descriptive and diagnostic research entails
questionnaires and agro-economic measurements directed towards learning about
the existing system, while field work for design and testing entails differ-
ent levels of researcher and farmer management and implementation of the
interventions for the purpose of evaluating changes. The aspects of field
methods addressed include: sample selection, field layouts, questionnaire
design and measurement techniques. Assessment of the work covers the aspects
of agronomy and economics. While agro.economic analysis is carried out by
researchers the farmers' perceptions are also considered. The final section
of the report, Section five, presents some issues which the team might con-
sider during the first season. The issues relate mainly to the agronomic
SECTION ONE DESCRIPTION
Farming Systems Research was developed from investigations into the lack
of adoption by farmers of research station designed technologies. The
methods designed to overcome-these problems relied heavily on understanding
the existing farming system. Because FSR was developed mainly by economists
the descriptive methods are much better developed in that discipline than
in the agronomic discipline. The descriptive stage is vital to agronomists
because it provides the base on which they must build. In addition, going
back to the issue of poor adoption of research station designed technologies
a new 'supply' of ideas for technologies can be found in description. This
is done by describing the multitude of technological strategies already used
by farmers. Thus two pressing needs in FSR agronomy, understanding the ex-
isting practices and finding new technologies to test can be satisfied by
The main objectives for the descriptive work are to: describe the existing
cropping practices, determine the range of agronomic strategies, and provide
new technologies for the testing stage. There are some less important objec-
tives for this kind of work especially in the first season of an FSR effort.
By observing farmers and describing their practices the agronomist can get
a good 'feel' for the environment in terms of knowing the kinds of technol-
ogies that might work. It will also help to build a sound co-operative rela-
tionship between researcher and farmer. Much of the descriptive work will
be done with the economist and this early interaction between the two dis-
ciplines can help to produce a good working partnership.
Type of fieldwork
The fieldwork will include both formal and informal questionnaires. The
formal questionnaires will be conducted primarily by the economist but the
agronomist will be collecting agronomic and some economic data. Two levels
of formal surveys are planned, multiplee visit survey and single visit sur-
veys. The multiple visit survey will collect detailed information on farmer
circumstances and resource use patterns from a small number of farming units
in each recommendation domain. The single visit surveys will be administered
to a wider range of farmers to gather 'attitudinal' information on agronomic
strategies and the 'whys' of cropping practices. Two important examples
are: the farmers attitude to double ploughing and intensive rather than ex-
tensive planting methods. The surveys also attempt to ascertain the existing
incentives influencing farmers' decisions to change.
For the Multiple visit formal survey
Sampling procedure recommendation domains
Number of farmers in each village
Farm :;o. Graught Sex HH Draught Sex HH Farm No.
Cwn tractor M Own donkey M+F 4
5 Hire tractor M+F Hire donkey F 4
7 Own oxen M+F Own Oxen M 1
4 Hire oxen M+F Hire Oxen M 1
The main areas to be covered in the questionnaire will be:
seeding rates by crop, by date, whether treated, origin, variety, fertilizer,
manure, etc. use
week and quantity of harvest
distance from cattle post and village
specific problems by crop: drought stress, cattle, birds, weeds, etc.
history: rotations, years in use, tenure status, kraaling of cattle, etc.
time worked on household fields by activity, age/sex category
time on small stock, poultry, household maintenance, off-farm activities,
time on other peoples fields and livestock
time of people outside household on household fields
time spent at cattle post, out ... village, at school, etc.
implements for farm and non-farm activities
age, sex breakdown, residence during year, relation to head, education, also
any-changes during year have to be recorded as well as any long absences
or illnesses (affecting labour supply).
inventory at beginning and any changes due to deaths, births, eaten, lost,
demographic structure of herd
management practices, including dehorning, castration, culling, etc.
special questions for ani,nal traction use, e.g. a labor time for traction
animals, activities performed, equipment used, problems, or used animals
for transport or firing out.
Expenditure and Receipts
purchase and repairs of tractors: implements, seeds, fertilizer, etc. sales
sales of processed crop products, artisan items, animal products, purchases
and sales of animals
expenditure for animal maintenance and extra expenditures related to traction
other outside income (other members, pensions, etc.)
expenditures on consumer durables and non-durables
costs of field clearings, ploughing
loans, repayments, gifts, receipt of gifts in cash and kind and information
on related obligations received or incurred.
average for household members
for livestock if it is special fearing
The single visit surveys have yet to be designed and the sampling framework
will be constructed in relation to the object of the survey. For example,
it is anticipated that a special survey will be conducted on draught pooling
arrangements near the end of the plough planting period. Following Behnke
and Lightfoot's study in Maunathala (see footnote) a sample of farm units
will be selected by starting with a few units who hired or borrowed draught
animals and then following linkages to other participants in the draught
pool. Similarly, a planned special survey on livestock management strategies
will purposively select a sample of farmers on the basis of herd size. Since
it is thought that this approach will facilitate the description and diag-
nosis of problems and potentials in the existing system.
A report on the Maunathala study is in the collection of papers relevant
to FSR in Botswana. The paper is titled Methodological issues relating
to on-farm agricultural research in Botswana, and it is co-authored with
Behnke R. Lesothlo, J. and Kerven, C.
SECTION TWO DIAGNOSIS
The diagnostic work is to examine two themes, one theme investigates the
agronomic factors contributing to crop stands and growth variability, and
the other investigates the management of resource allocation to each enter-
prise. More specifically the agronomic work will focus on stand establish-
ment, factors affecting grain yield, levels of weed burdens, and some esti-
mation of likelihood of outcomes by cropping strategy. The economic work
seeks to determine areas of flexibility in the management of resources.
The important information here is to what extent do farmers know the right
times to plough and how to grow crops well. If farmers do know what to do
but are constrained what are the constraints and is there any flexibility
in the system to solve those constraints. If there is little flexibility
and farmers know what to do then it is going to be very difficult to design
new technologies. Still difficulty is no reason to ignore the problems
these farmers face.
The observation that crop productivity varies markedly among farms using
thc saeo 'traditional' technology is common in Botswana, and probably not
just in Botswana. Diagnosing the reasons why this variability in yield
occurs tcan provide two important pieces of information. Firstly, the agron-
omic problems that the farmer faces and secondly, the agronomic factors
vital to hiqh productivity. Thus, the main objectives of the diagnostic
work are to: diagnose the causes of yield variation and identify the agron-
omic problems. The diagnosis is carried out on existing cropping practices,
primarily to see if and how improvements might be made.
Types of field work
The field work involves both questionnaires and field measurement of
physical and agronomic parameters. Two levels of diagnosis are planned,
one formal and the other informal. The formal diagnosis is to be conducted
on the same farms as the multiple visit survey and on the farms used in the
'testing area' of research. The formal work entails the demarcation of
planting strips, a. structured questionnaire and some measurements. If var-
iations within the planting strip are very marked, then the 'atypical' area
will be demarcated with 'yellow' pegs and a separate diagnosis made. The
informal work entails the isolation of good ind poor areas of crop growth
on non-survey farms in the District in which the diagnosis in conducted
mainly by unstructured questioning.
Field Methods for the formal diagnosis
The diagnostic work will be carried out on all the multiple visit survey
farms and on the farms used for the 'testing' work. This gives the follow-
ing breakdown of farm numbers by village and recommendation domains.
Recommendation Survey Farms Testing Farms
Domain Shoshong Makwate Shoshong Makwate
Own Tractor Male 2
Hire Tractor MiF 5 4
Own Oxen MtF 7 1 4 I
Hire Oxen M+F 4 1 4 1
Own Donkey M+F 4 4
Hire Donkey Female 4 3
16 10 14 9
The field method starts with erecting a rain gauge on two metre gun poles
in each lands area. The rain gauges are to be sited well away from all pos-
sible obstructions. The rain gauges will be read when rain has fallen in
the area, not on a daily basis. On each day of plough planting the area
worked is demarcated with white painted wood pegs. It is recommended that
J.C. level female enumerators living near the lands areas be employed to
read the rain guage and demarcate the ploughed areas, noting the dates of
both rainfall and plough planting. All other measurements and question-
naires should be done by research assistants.
The area plough planted in a day, often referred to by farmers as an 'acre'
is determined by measuring the four sides of the strip. The headland at
each end of the strip is not measured. A measuring wheel does provide a
sufficiently accurate measure that is quick and easy to make.
Although farmers will readily demarcate areas plough planted per day, the
date of the operation is seldom known beyond the month or before and after
Christmas. Therefore, is it mandatory to have an enumerator living in the
lands area so that the dates can be recorded accurately. In addition to
the reading of rain guages and the demarcation of plough planting strips.
Measurements for plough planting strips
The main problems encountered in data collection are caused by the research-
er not being present during the plough planting operations. Therefore the
most ii'portant condition for good measurement is sufficient manpower to
ensure their presence at the time of plough planting. Assuming that the
researcher is present at the time of planting, the following methods of
iejurlemrient dtre su'jujsLcd:
Weed buire, before plough planting:
Prior t, the plough planting operation a visual ossessmnent of the weed bur-
den should be made. Such an assessment can use a 0 to r rating where 0 is
nc .;eens and 5 is complete weed cover up to knee height. 1 is then a few
siall .-es., 2 is 5r ground cover uf -mall weed-, 3 is cover of small and
knee high weeds, and 4 is complete ground cover of small weeds and 50', of
tall weeds. A distinction could also be made between broad leaved weeds
Seed types and sowing rates:
The types of seed used and their relative proportion should be noted by ask-
ing the farmer prior to sowing. The amount of seed to be sown should be
weighed before it is sown.
Depth of ploughing:
lhe ploughing operation should be observed and a note of the variability
in depth taken down. Often the plough will ride out of the ground when
stumps or old termite hills are hit. However, the purpose of this measure
is to separate those strips that are ploughed shallow, that is less than
10 cm deep, from the strips that are ploughed deep, which is more than 20
cm. Therefore, visual assessment combined with a few measurements of the
depth of the furrow slice and asking the farmer how deep he perceived the
ploughing to be will usually be sufficient to achieve the purpose.
Soil moisture at planting:
Although an estimate of how moist the soil is at plough planting can be made
from the rainfall data and the soil mechanical analysis, a direct measure-
ment is much more accurate. The soil moisture to a depth of 20 cm can be
determined gravimetrically. About five samples of soil sections from the
surface to 20 cm are taken randomly from the plough planted strip and bulked
together. The wet weight of the bulked sample is taken in the field. The
sample can then be stored in a plastic bag until time permits for oven dry-
ing and determination of the dry weight.
Soil samples from each strip will be rnidlysed fur pil (dcidity) and texture.
A hydrometic method will be used to determine soil texture. To increase the
efficiency of data collection, it is suggested that the sample used for
gravimetric soil water determination are used here.
Obviously the researcher will not be able to be present on every plough
planting occasion and so the following suggestions are made for data collec-
tion when the researcher cannot be present.
Weed burden at planting:
An estimate of the weed burden prior to plough planting can be obtained by
visual assessment on a scale of 0 to 5 of the weeds adjacent to the plough
;-lanted strip. Also, the farmer could be asked to describe the overall gen-
eral cover of weeds and its height. This description could then be fitted
to the visual assessment scale to obtain a weed burden rating.
Seed types and sowing rates:
The types and amount of seed used can be assessed by asking the farmer what
mixture of seeds were sown and how full the seed container was for that
planting strip. Once the amount of seed in terms of seed container units
is known, the container can be refilled with seed to the appropriate level
and weighed. This should provide a reasonably accurate estimate of the
amount of seed used.
Depth of ploughing:
The average depth to which the area was ploughed can be estimated by asking
the farmer to indicate the depth. Farmers often use an outstretched hand
to indicate depth where a half a hand, whole hand or more than a whole hand
indicate shallow to deep ploughing respectively. This farmer assessment
of ploughing depth was found to be fairly accurate when tested against
direct measurements of the furrow slice. This assessment could be cross
checked by using a soil probe. To overcome the problems of thin soil probes
easily penetrating the plough pan on wet sanoy soils, a 20 mm diameter probe
is suggested. Even with a thicker Frobe it muust be pushed into the soil
with 'Jre'ut ca''' aind i, mnny as tun (bsrv~.L:r.i should be made. Still, a
serious disadvantac.e with the soil probe ixethod remains and that is the
different lev ls in conpaction of the -,oi tilth.
Soil moisture at planting:
Farmer recall of the soil moisture at plough planting usually extends to
three categories; too little water, intermediate and plenty of water. The
recall in these categories is good and so it is suggested to use the farmers
assessment and the rainfall data to arrive at an assessment of soil moisture
at plough planting.
[he plant stand established
There are two problems with estimating plant stand on farmers' fields, the
irregularity of stand and the mixture of crops. The problem of irregularity
of stand can be partly solved by taking a diacjo,,rl line across the planted
strip, and randomly sampling by walking along this diagonal dropping a quad-
rat at a set number of paces. The number of paces is determined by the size
of the field and the irregularity of the crop stand. If the planted strip
is small, fewer steps will be required compared to large strips. If the
stand is uniform, as few as five samples can be taken. The problem of the
mixture of crops can be partly solved by counting all the grain crops (maize,
sorghum, millet and beans) as a single crop. The melons, pumpkins, squashes
and sweet reed are not counted, but if they occur in large concentrations
they should-be noted. A metre square quadrat is useful because plant numbers
are likely to be below ten, which makes for easy counting. In addition, it
makes conversion to a per hectare basis very convenient, thus quadrats with
less than two plants indicate poor stands, more than two, adequate, and above
ten too high.
The grain yield
Estimating grain yields is not easy for two main reasons. Firstly, yield
type between legume and cereal and even between maize and sorghum or millet
differ greatly. And secondly, crops within a planting strip will be harvest-
ed at different times, as they ripen and dry out. The strategy designed to
overcome these problems involves four different sets of measurements.
Using the same sampling procedure described for the estimation of plant
populations, the legume pods and cereal heads and cobs can be counted. It
would not be difficult to compute a conversion factor for yield estimates
from;i these counts.
The metre quadrats could be used to take sample harvests from the strips.
The sampling procedure is the same as for plant population estimation. The
sample harvests could be weighed unthreshed and a correction factor used to
estimate grain yield, or they could be threshed.
As the farmer harvests the crops, it might be possible to take weighing in
the field of unthreshed crops from the plough planted strip. This method
is only really feasible when the farmer harvests the crops by plough planted
The last method of measuring grain yield is to count and weigh the bags con-
taining the harvested crops. These bags will contain unthreshed and threshed
grains, thus threshing percentages need to be computed. A major problem with
this assessment method is that some of the production will have already been
consumed by the family. Another problem is that it will be difficult, if
not impossible, to determine how much product came from which planting strip.
Using these combined measures of grain yield, the absolute grain yield values
obtained may still lack accuracy, but for comparative purposes they should
be sufficiently accurate.
Assessments of 'other' factors
Between and within strips variation can occur from ploughing to harvest.
Assuming that the researcher can visit farms during ploughing and at least
weekly during the growing season, the following assessments should be made:
During the plough planting operation, it is important to map within the strip
the areas of potential variation. Such areas would be: old termite hill
sites, stony areas indicating shallow soils, very damp 'low' spots and or
particularly dry 'high' spots, and concentrations of tree stumps.
A visual assessment of weeds can be made using the rating scheme of 0 to 5
for no weeds, to complete cover of knee high weeds as already suggested.
In addition, some assessment of the presence of absence of parasitic weeds
ought to be made. The important parasitic v-eeds are striga on sorghum and
Alectra on cuwpea. rhe difficulty is seeing these weeds because they are
short and hidden at the base of the plants precludes an assessment of level
of infestation, Jnless each plant can be counted.
Pests and disease:
For both pests and disease, visual assessments can be made of percentage
yield loss or percentage damage or infestation. However, all these assess-
ments require a "well trained eye" and their subjectivity permit possible
errors between individuals. The purpose of assessing pest and disease damage
is to allow 'accounting' for variation. Thus for pest and disease damage,
it is sufficient to record levels on a simple rating system of 0 to 2 where
0 is no damage, 1 is light damage and 2 is heavy damage. The major pests
likely to be encountered are; birds feeding on sorghum and millet heads,
cattle grazing, stalk borer on maize and sorghum and flower eating beetles
Although an estimation of drought spells can be obtained from the rainfall
data, it is too simplistic because it ignoresthe all important soil water
and plant relationships. A much better, or more integrated measure of
drought, is to assess the degree of plant stress. Water stress in plants
can be assessed by degree of leaf curl and senesence. For the purposes of
estimating drought spells the number of days the crop exhibits intense leaf
curling can be recorded. It is important to carry out this assessment during
flowering and grain fill because grain yield is reduced much more than when
stress occurs during negative phases of growth.
Field Methods for Informal Diagnosis
The reason for conducting informal diagnosis is to increase the range of
environments and farmers strategies. The objective is still to attempt to
explain the variability of crop growth. Although the management of plough
planting is the focus, other aspects of crop growth are also considered.
The method to be used is to visit the planted fields with the person who
ploughed and planted the crops. In the field the agronomic operations and
environmental conditions are discussed. Where possible areas of good and
poor crop growth are isolated and the differences diagnosed with the farmer.
A framework of questions is used to help focus the discussion. The question-
naire is presented in full overleaf.
Pests and disease:
The date the ploughing was carried out.
The average depth of ploughing.
The number of times the land was ploughed.
The date the planting was carried out.
The number of days after the last good rain the planting
The wetness of the soil at the surface.
The depth to which the soil was wet.
How many times has the crop had no rain for over two
Did any drought spells occur when the crop was flowering.
Were there many weeds greater than ankle height at plant-
Was weeding carried out before they reached ankle height.
Was a second weeding carried out when the crop was kree
Does this field have a history of parasitic weeds.
Were the parasitic weeds pulled before they flowered.
Has this crop suffered heavy damage from any insects
Has this crop suffered heavy damage from birds.
What kind of bird scaring is used.
It is important to appreciate that the survey is informal so the phraseology
and order of questions are flexible. Initially, the farmers' diagnosis of
crop growth differences should be sought, after which the questionnaire is
used to focus the diagnosis.
The objective of diagnosis is to explain variation in plant stand and grain
yield. Multiple regressions can be used to determine the closeness of cor-
relation between practices and plant stand or grain yield. Current inform-
ation suggests that soil moisture at planting, depth of ploughing, number
of passes with the plough, and day after the beginning of the rainy season
would correlate strongly with plant stand and grain yield. In such a re-
gression the slope of the line would indicate the level of response to plough
planting husbandry. The correlation coefficient indicates the 'goodness
to fit' of the data along the regression line. If the coefficient is small
then the 'confounding' factors are crucial in the explanation of stand or
yield. The hypothesis that the quality and timeliness of plough planting
largely controls plant stand and grain yield can be tested using Students
't' test. The data are grouped into all those planting strips that were
deep ploughed once or twice, and planted into wet soil before the end of
December and those .that were shallow ploughed once, and planted into dry
soil after-December and a 't' test made between them. The data can be re-
grouped in many different combinations and such tests carried out to see
which factors largely control grain yield. The extent to which grain yield
cannot be explained or is controlled by 'confounding' factors provides an
estimate of the risk factor in growing crops in Botswana. A more accurate
estimate of risk could be obtained by calculating the probabilities of var-
ious levels of yield outcome at different levels of plough planting husbandry.
If the probabilities do not differ between good and poor husbandry, it would
indicate that it makes little difference when or how the farmer plough plants
The diagnostic work also seeks to ascertain the socio-economic relationships
with the agronomic components. If the husbandry of plough planting does
largely explain crop stand and yield, then why all farmers do not practice
good husbandry needs to be explained. One avenue of explanation would be
the farmers access to the critical resources of draught and labor. As the
principle criteria for recommendation domains was access to resources for
"timel iness" of plough planting crop production and productivity must
be examined in this regard. The, correlation between recommendation domain
and good husbandry would offer some insight as to whether husbandry is a
primary objective of farmers. Farmers who have adequate resources may choose
to plough as much land as possible regardless of husbandry. Correlations
could be made between farmers with poor access to resources and husbandry
to Iee if they plough under optimum conditions or just when they can. Under-
standing the interactions between agronomic and socio-economic factors will
assist in the future design of improvements.
SECTION THREE DESIGN
The design stage can be thought of as two processes. The first process is
the gathering of technology that address identified farmers problems. The
technologies can be obtained from the research station or the farmers fields.
The second process involves the testing of some of these technologies by the
researcher on a research 'plot' on farmers fields. The results of these
research managed and research implemented (RMRI) trials along with research
station data and farmer information form the basis for technology design.
This section presents an inventory of technologies from the farm field and
research station for the agronomist to consider. The section also presents
the initial ideas on possible RMRI trials for the first season.
An Inventory of Technologies
The purpose of this inventory is to provide some ideas of technologies that
!in !.t ,jk-,tiIl to th.e project. lhe inv n:tury ha., '*,,li 'old favorites' like
the row planter and some hitherto untested ideas. In recognition of the
ubiquitous problem of poor crop stands on farmers' fields most of the tech-
nologies are associated with planting methods. The more farm specific prob-
le~!s of soil fertility, weeds, pests and disease are given less attention.
Mechanical Implements for Planting
Single and double row planters which can be either ox or tractor drawn.
Planter attachment for the ox-drawn single furrow mouldboard plough.
Hand-held mechanical planters of the wheeled or stick/jab type.
Hand end Hoe Planting
Hand placement of seed into the plough furrow during either the first or
second ploughing operation. The seed can be dribbled continuously in the
furrow or a few seeds placed at a single spot separated by and appropriate
intra row spacing.
Hand broadcasting of seed on to oloughed land which is then harrowed with
a toothed harrow to incorporate the seed.
Hand spot placement of seed on ploughed land into a hole made by the heel
or hoe, covering the seed with soil using the foot or hoe.
The seeds can be mixed at each spot to help the emergence of seedlings
through the soil crust.
The Management of Broadcast Planting
Hardveld soils require one deep (20 cm) ploughing and one shallower ploughing
after the seed has been broadcast.
The seed should be sown into soil that is wet throughout the profile, a con-
dition which only lasts for two or three days after a 'planting rain'.
Planting Strategies to Increase Yield Stability
The sequential planting of small areas on each 'planting rain' from November
to January. These areas should conform with the rainfall micro-catchment
areas of the field. If the season develops into a 'wet one' then the areas
can be extended. the plant population can be controlled within a range of
three to eight plants per square meter by thinning and replanting by hand
or hoe. To increase the chance of plant emergence four strategies are sug-
gested. The use of seed that has been soaked for twelve hours and dried back
in conjunction with unsoaked seed. The sowing of seed into the 'bone dry'
top soil as well as deep into wet soil. The sowing of seed at a range of
depths from the surface down to ten centimetres. The use of seed that is
over four millimetres in diameter, that is usually larger than normal.
The use of Single Super Phosphate at a rate of two hundred kilograms per hec-
tare once every two or three years. The fertilizer should be broadcast and
ploughed under before or at planting.
The use of kraal manure at high rates, more than two tons per hectare, on
small areas adjacent to the kraal or lolwapa.
The early weeding-of crops before plant competition becomes to severe.
That is before the crop and weeds become.the same size in bulk and height.
The hand pulling of parasitic weeds especially Striga on sorghum and Alectra
Supplementary Feeding of Cattle
To increase the bulk and nutritive value of the crop stover a fodder legume
(Dolichos) can be interplanted with the cereal crop at the time of first
The planting of fodder millets end sorghums for cutting as hay and stall
The planting of upright determinate cowpea varieties (Dr. Saunders Upright)
which can give a seed and hay harvest.
The establishment of semi-permanent improved pastures (Cenchrus and Siratro)
next to the lands area for selective grazing.
Iield Mltlhuds for !"' Ir~l ts
In Shoshong one large plot on one farm has been identified as the site for
This ldrge single plot of land is largely for the agronomist to try out ideas
as they emerge from the work. Therefore the proposals mentioned now will
probably be added to during the first season. At the moment four seed treat-
ments and two planting methods are planned plus some observations on forage
crops. The seed treatments are normal SMU seed size, selected SMU seed
greater than 3.3 mm in diameter, seed soaking and no soaking. These treat-
ments are combined factorally giving four treatment combinations.
Normal seed size + unsoak 1
Normal seed size + soak 2
Large seed size + unsoak 3
Large seed size + soak 4
Each of these treatments is to be p'anted by broadcasting and hand third
furrow placement of the seed.
FOr the forage work some monocrop areas of Dolichos lab lab and Stylo (Towns-
ville) may be planted or the crops will be interplanted into the cereals.
The field layout of the treatments will be in three blocks/replicates with
the main plots as the two planting methods and four sub plots of the seed
treatments. There will be enough land remaining for the fodder and other
The measurements taken will closely resemble those of the RMFI trials except
more detailed measurements may be made on the depths from which seeds emerge.
The major difference of the measurements taken in this plot is that they will
be m.,ch more precise than those taken on the RMFI plots.
The Assessments maae here will be primarily agronomic. Their purpose being
for the agronomist to see how new crops, and technologies perform.
SECTION 4 TESTING
There is considerable evidence from both farmers fields and research station
work that establishing an adequate crop stand is a major problem for most
farmers. Therefore the testing programme is to concentrate its efforts on
improving stand establishment. Improvement is envisaged primarily through
planting methods and seed size. One other area of testing work will be a
yield reduction study of weeds. The planting methods, seed size and weeding
study are to be carried out on the same sample of farmers with similar levels
of researcher and farmer involvement.
The primary objectives of the testing work are to improve seedling emergence
and sta'ld establishment primarily in sorghum, and obtain researcher and
farmer assessment of common planting technologies. Seed size is being inves-
tigated with a view to improving the selection of heads for seed. The objec-
tive of the weeding test is to quantify the cgrjin yield losses in sorghum
due to weed competition.
Type of Field Work
The field work will entail researcher management of designated planting
stripr on which the farmer will implement the test treatments. (RFTI in Figure 2)
While these categories are useful for designing division of inputs they are
fairly flexible in practice. Thus if a new planting method is to be tested
on a farmer's field it is necessary for research to do some implementation
to show the farmer how to use the method. Researchers must however try to
avoid complete implementation of a test that is designed for farmer imple-
In the RMFI test research is to provide the planting equipment and the seed
and of course give instruction on how to use the equipment and carry out the
work. The farmer will decide on all husbandry matters from tillage, date
of planting, etc. to harvesting. The nly exception will be on the weeding
plots in the yield reduction due to weed study. On all the test farms
research will be responsible for all the measurements and data collection.
Field Methods for RMFI Tests
The planting methods are: broadcast, hand third furrow, plough planter,
harrow and single row planter. The broadcast method of planting consists
of hand broadcasting seed onto unploughed land the ploughing it under with
a mould board plough to a depth of approximately 20 cm. The hand third
furrow method requires the farmers to hand dribble seed onto the side of
every third furrow slice. The seed is covered by the soil thrown off the
next furrow. The plough planter is a single row planter unit attached to
the plough which plants in the same way as the hand third furrow planting
method. The harrow method of planting incorporates hand broadcast seed on
to ploughed land by using a toothed harrow. The single row planter is to
be used on ploughed land which preferably will have been harrowed as well.
The seed size test compares normal SMU sorghum cvs Segaolane seed with
specially selected lIr!er seed all of which is Ireater than 3.3 mm in dia-
The farm sample frame:
For the tests approximately 23 farmers are to be involved. The detailed
breakdown of these farmers has already been presented in the field methods
of the diagnostic work and so is not shown here. However not all farms will
receive the same tests and a good deal of necessary flexibility is built in.
So the sampling frame presented here is really more of intention than what
actually happens. Flexibility in the work is likely to lead to more compari-
son of planting methods with Segaolane. Some farmers have already articu-
lated that they want to plant more areas with the plough planter. More plan-
tinq% are likely to be made with different crops, notably maize and cowpea.
On all the farms a broadcast and check plot will be sown by the farmer using
seed provided by research on, if possible, the same day as the intervention
plots. On the Shoshong tractor draught farms the plough planter, and harrow
planting methods will be used. On the own-draught animals in both villages
hand third furrow, plough planter, harrow and row planter will be used. On
the hire draught animal farms in both villages hand third furrow and plough
planters will be used. The seed size test will be carried out on all farms
which have broadcast and hand third furro.w wantingg methods. The weed study
will be conducted on those farms which -xhibit an early heavy weed burden.
't is also desirable that the plant stand is fairly uniform, have similar
!' hinting dates and apparent uniformity in soil type.
'he main crop to be used will be sorghum Segaolane although if farmers wish
!hpn seeds of maiZe, millet and cowpea will be provided for use in the compa-
ison of planting methods only.
i.h farmer will be requested to plant a broadcast planted check plot and
Slcst one other plot using an improved planting methods on one day.
-. poVt should be at least 5 meters wide. If farmers wish they may plant
,'I the' test methods on any number of days with the saome or different crops.
:ste ya/ planted strips are demarcated by the farmer with white painted
S.,s. The seed size comparison will be demarcated with blue pegs. The three
*:lir-, regime plots will be demarcated with red pegs and be at least thirty
,..I ,i, l a,(tU Jnrl n five nii'ters wide.
"" -":,- r, t S
..::. r,; ;,'e me-.'ure':ents will be covered by the diagnostic work, because
S:. :,:c..rt, w:i'l be carried out on all tne plaanting strips. Therefore,
: s ni/ r ecesscry to consider the measurements specific to the tests.
., i:. ;:tth.. i n, and the seed size pl(ct r,; -uire .,.ti-inrctes in the time
,*;..nce -n: percentage et:e'rgence to be nmde. The estimation of time
.-rgence is difficult in crops that arc planted at variable depths
*u'.. the period of ermergence is protracted. Thus this measure will have
-. *e fairly crude estimation of days to 50"' emergence. The percentage
.ience can be estimated from the seed rate and plant population count.
d.. ..'!ir comparison will only consider estimates of grain yield. Grain
*, -li will also be used as a variable for planting method comparisons. Any
,..ntounding factors that may occur such as pest and disease will be assessed
u-:ng the methods detailed in the diac-stic .rk.
The agronomic assessment of planting methods will consider differences in
emergence time and percentage, plant population and grain yield. The signi-
ficance of difference will be determined by paired and unpaired 't' tests
on unadjusted and adjusted plot and mean data. The agronomist will be seek-
ing to assess how the methods behave under good and poor management and envi-
ronmental conditions. The seed size test will focus on assessing the differ-
ences in emergence time and percentage. The yield reduction due to weeds
will be assessed by direct comparisons of yield so that percentage reductions
can be calculated. In attempting to find out how agronomic factors affect
plant stand and grain yield it maybe useful to elaborate a model for crop
production. .he model might consider rate of plough planting, number of
planting days, emerfgqccP, stand established and rrain yield in relation to
the sice and season and socio-economic aspects such as the Recommendation
trorains. The mueel v:ould be used for assessing agro- economic response to
knterViention and to see where the responses occur.
The (,conoinic assessments will use partial budget analysis on the planting
:,it o.!,s to i,,ci.rtd in Lhi-' iltferences in costs nrd benefits from the different
improved planting methods.
'n the use of new plnriting methods and especially equipment the difficulties
et,. untcrei by the fariTer in their use is very important information for
,4.s ss.e;:rt of the methods. The farmers assessment of inconvenience and
p,,:sibl-e 'odificaticns should also be sought.
SECTION 5 SOME ISSUES TO CONSIDER
Agronomic Research Methods
Farming Systems Research requires that technologies are designed to solve
farmers problems identified in the descriptive and diagnostic work.
Ideally the sequency of agronomic research should be observation hypothesis
design and test. However, agronomists do not enter FSR programmes without
any past research knowledge. The difficulty comes in deciding which techno-
logies to test in the first season before the farmers' problems are well
understood. It is true in most cases that research station designed techno-
logies do address the agronomic problems of farming. Sometimes as in the
case of the minimum tillage technology, technologies are designed to solve
farmer resource constraints, in the case of minimum tillage the resource con-
straint was draught power. Planting equipment was designed to address the
agr.ononic problems of poor crop stands.
In this instance it would appear sensible to use these research stations
;,'sirgred technologies in the first seasons work. History shows us that the
:"inirrum! tillage syste.i failed completely and the planter has only been adop-
ted by very few of the 'well off' farmers.
'e aovu outcomes could have been avoided if research had considered the
!; t'*;-;:irng system,. including the circumstances in which it Uperates. Also,
c.;nsierir.n tI.e econo'nic parameters of technologies especially their resource
*-,.ui';ler.ts of capital, labor and draught would have helped.
it '.~3ri~er is that :;ronomists can take research station designed technolo-
gies and test them or farmers fields for many years only to produce negative
or poor results in terms of farmer adoption.
;:t only are there dangers in using research station designed technologies
with-.ut a good understanding of the farmers problems and circumstances agro-
nom-ists find it difficult to gene-ate ar adequate selection of technologies
to test when the only source is the research station.
Thus it is urged that the first season focuses on gaining an understanding
of the farmers problems and circumstances and increasing the fund of techno-
logies to test in the next season.
Rather than undertaking a heavy burden of testing work in the first season
with the attendant risk of inefficient research in subsequent years. Finding
out why farmers do not adopt technologies is not efficient research.
What is needed now are many technological options which the majority of
farmers can use. The job of FSR is to increase research efficiency and pro-
duce many technologies for farmers to choose from.
Thinking in Agro-economic Strategies
Consider an investigation on yield loss from weeds. The results depending
on the weed burden of the control plot will probably vary between 20 and
80. yield losses. If all the ranges of weed burden encountered were used,
the results would vary between 0 and perhaps 100%. Farmers know weeds reduce
yields, farmers know the reduction can vary greatly. The point is how can
they do something about it. Thinking in terms of agro-economic strategies,
the issue is how can labor resources be released at the 'right' time for
adequate weeding to be done. The agronomist must seek technologies in other
areas of the farming system that will release labor for weeding.
Almost as a matter of course tests of new technologies are designed and imple-
-.ented as comparisons in competition with the existing methods. There are
two important implications of this in relation to strategic thinking.
Firstly the comparisons are almost invariably confounded by differences in
management. Thus it could be that management is responsible for the differ-
ences in outcome, usually the improved method produces more grain, and not
the methods. Secondly, it is assumed that the methods are always substitutes.
Notponly may this assumption be false, but supplementary use is central to
strategic thinking. For example, farmers only change from broadcast to
planters if they feel the season will be 'wet' enough. The questions for
agro-economic strategies are many: when do farmer strategies change with sea-
sons and resources; to what extend will 'he different methods be used in
any one season; how are the mixtures of methods related to reducing risk?
An important area of research for agro-economic strategy is understanding
the nature of extensive planting. Some of the issues might be that farmers
are seeking to maximise other resources and not land. The assumption that
land will remain an abundant resource i. questionable today. The extent to
which farmers perceive intensifying land use as a viable strategy is critical.
This area of research is so little understood that it is difficult to cover
all its implications, but in terms of increasing crop production and stabi-
lity of production it could be a very useful avenue for technology develop-
FSR Research Output
It is worthwhile to consider in brief some of the forms of output that an
FSR project can produce. In this research knowledge of what farmers are
doing, their problems and the existing strategies to solve them are all impor-
tant products of the first seasons work. Although in very general terms most
agricultural researchers know the existing farming practices very little
detailed knowledge exists. The current understanding of farmers problems
and the strategies that exist to address them are in large measure unknown.
I. It kind o( .ut putl from the fir. t i',:,Ori is of conU siderable value.
:n order for the project to have impact over time two other sorts of output
no. usiully associated with agricultural research are important. One is to
driveID research methodclcgies so that future workers in the research and
.:xtrensinn institution can continue with a farming systems approacli to research.
lt-- secorid cutput fr',.~ the field research of the project is information on
tht kinds of institutir al changes that might be made at the policy level.
It is unlikely th..t technology alone c.n bring about improvements in the
farming systems. At some point institutional changes are likely to be needed.
Lastly the type of technical recommendations generated are likely to be dif-
ferent. FSR recognizes that all farmers are not the same and that any tech-
nology will be suitable for some farmers and not for others. That is why
FSR .ises recommendation domains. The agro-economic research must produce
a large range of technical solutions to each problem so that farmers can
choose which best fits their circumstances.
The idea is that extension agents present farmers with a range of options
and see which options are adopted by which types of farmers. This extension
exercise is limited to the project area and will provide the project with
evaluation of its technologies and extension agents experience at this form
of approach. From this work the FSR team will learn which of the techno-
logies are viable to a larger audience of farmers, and what kinds of farmers
are adopting the technologies. This kind of information should help the FSR
effort to improve the efficiency of research in terms of technology develop-
ment for specific recommendation domains.