A decade of on-farm research in lowland rice-based farming systems

Material Information

A decade of on-farm research in lowland rice-based farming systems some lessons
Series Title:
Networking paper
Morris, Richard A
Farming Systems Support Project
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Gainesville Fla
Farming Systems Support Project, International Programs, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Publication Date:
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27 p. : ill. ; 28 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural extension work -- Research -- Developing countries ( lcsh )
Rice -- Planting ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (p. 26-27).
General Note:
"This paper was presented at the 4th annual Conference on Farming Systems Research at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, October 1984."
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Richard A. Morris.

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Farming Systems Support Project

International Programs
Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida 32611

Office of Agriculture and
Office of Multisectoral Development
Bureau for Science and Technology
Agency for International Development
Washington, D.C. 20523




This paper was presented at the 4th
Annual Conference on Farming Systems Research
at Kansas State University, Manhattan,
Kansas, October 1984

Richard A. Morris
Agronomist and Head
Multiple Cropping Department
The International Rice
Research Institute
P.O. Box 933
Manila, Philippines.

Editor's note:

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In tropical Asia, rice is central to most farming
systems because it is a crop well adapted to the monsoon
climate. Moreover, governments and households place high
priority on rice production. Although rice cultivation must
remain central to farming systems, increased cropping
frequency, by growing other species in sequence with rice,
is regarded as a means to increase food production and
employment opportunities for rural populations.
When implemented with linkages to conventional
agricultural research programs, on-farm cropping systems
research projects complement experiments station research.
Innovations tested in on-farm cropping systems research
projects are those perceived as having a potential to
increase cropping frequency. Innovations are tested on-farm
to determine the acceptability of these innovations to
Experience with on-farm research methods and
agricultural innovations in rainfed rice farming
environments has yielded lessons. Methodological and
organizational aspects of on-farm research are discussed.
Among these are the role of on-farm research, phases of
on-farm research, and project relationships with farmers,
with research station-oriented scientists who are
responsible for generating appropriate technology, with
extension officials, and with community leadership.
Technical aspects of increased cropping frequency in lowland
rainfed rice-based sequences are also discussed.

Although the International Rice Research Institute
(IRRI) is a single commodity international agricultural
research center, it recognizes that the well-being of rice
farmers and regional food production are not tied only to
the rice crop. That rice cultivation is central to cropping
system, however, does have important implications for
research on both rice and associated crops. The IRRI
Cropping Systems Program has emphasized the incorporation of
technical innovations into farming systems to increase
frequency of crop harvests per year rather than increase
yield per crop.
This paper contains four sections. The first section
pulls together several disparate threads in a section
entitled "Background". The second section discusses the
on-farm systems research methods used by IRRI. The third
summarizes agronomic research findings from three lowland
rice environments. The fourth discusses issues important to
on-farm cropping systems research which appear to require a
few years of experience before they are recognized.


Why rice-based? During the tropical Asian wet season,
few crops other than rice can be successfully grown on
extensive areas of heavy alluvial, coastal marine, and
lacustrine soils. Rice is a highly esteemed staple food
which stores easily in the humid tropics. Governments in the
region recognize the economic and political nature of rice
and, therefore, support rice production by price policies,
institutional credit, and input subsidies. Recognizing
these factors, rice cultivation remains central to most
Asian cropping systems research programs.
Why crop intensification? The focus of rice-based
cropping systems research, as applied at IRRI, arises from
increased pressure on land. In Asia, land for agricultural
expansion is limited, but population is expected to increase
138% before it stabilizes in 2090 (Dudal 1982). Furthermore,
as incomes rise, land must produce more food per person. An
expanding food and fiber demand offers opportunities to farm
families to increase income by increasing output. With
limited arable land but expanding population, multiple
cropping (i.e., growing two or more crops on the same field
in one year) is regarded as an important strategy to
increase production.
Since the mid 1960s, IRRI has had a multiple cropping
research component to investigate the potentials and
problems of increasing harvest frequency The on-farm

cropping systems research activities started in the early
1970s. At IRRI, on-farm cropping systems research
complements experiment station research. About 25% of IRRI's
cropping systems program is devoted to on-farm cropping
systems research. The remainder is devoted to conventional
experiment station research and to the analysis of factors
that influence crop productivity and resource allocation.
Why on-farm research? Or put another way: What
information can an on-farm research project generate which
experiment stations cannot more efficiently generate?
Answers to the following are sought from on-farm research:

o Agronomic adaptation. How fully are crop physical
requirements met under farm conditions?
o Managerial feasibility. Does the farmer have
sufficient resources and skills to cope with necessary
cultural practices?
o Economic viability. Can a new cropping pattern
compete with current use of the land?

Valid answers to these questions cannot be obtained on
research stations.
Of what use is information generated by on-farm
research? First, technical innovations necessary for crop
intensification that are manageable within the resource
limitations of small farmers can be recognized and
popularized rapidly. Second, because innovations may be
widely adopted only after management skills and markets are
improved and resources are augmented, specific resource
constraints, weak markets, or managerial deficiencies that
limit adoption are identified. This information is directed
at agencies responsible for development projects and
extension activities. Third, problems for which technology
does not now offer a solution or which cannot be overcome by
a program of resource augmentation, market development or
support, or extension activities are identified. Solutions
to such problems require thorough research and therefore,
information of this type is directed at agricultural
research institutions.
Why involve farmers? Farmers are important components
of the system. Most farmers are skillful crop husbandry
men, keen observers of physical, biotic, and socioeconomic
variables, and shrewd businessmen. An innovation used by a
farmer will be tested under conditions in which it
ultimately must be effective. Finally, farmers (and their
partners and advisors in the farm-household complex) quickly
exploit suitable technology and expose unsuitable
technology. Observational units must include farmer.
Why interdisciplinary? Although a technical innovation
may be the ultimate factor contributing to the insertion of

*The Cropping Systems Program is one of ten research
program areas at IRRI.

another crop in an annual sequence, the incorporation of
that innovation invariably has ramifications for many
cropping activities. For example, substituting an
early-maturing, high-yielding, photoperiod- insensitive rice
variety for a late-maturing, low-yielding, traditional
variety will create slack field time. But to grow a second
crop to exploit that field time, it will be necessary to
harvest, thresh, and store the first crop before the field
can be prepared for the second crop. Realistic management
techniques to secure the first crop and to plant the second
crop must be identified so that valuable growing time is not
'lost. Furthermore, a newly introduced second (or third) crop
must be protected and therefore crop protection research
must be initiated. Recognizing that no single discipline
has the expertise required to address all potential
problems, cropping systems research projects are commonly
The preceding discussion suggests that an introduction
of an innovation is necessary to increase cropping
intensity. Therefore on-farm methods must provide a
mechanism for the syntheses and tests of cropping patterns
which incorporate innovations. The methods must also yield
conclusive results regarding agronomic adaptation,
managerial feasibility, and economic viability. Furthermore,
the methods must encourage several disciplines to focus on a
common goal.


Methods for on-farm cropping systems research outlined
'at a Cropping Systems Working Group meeting in 1975 were
strongly influenced by applied systems research theory. For
example, Figure 1 shows the similarity between the applied
systems research method described by Witz (1973) and the
cropping systems research method outlined by the Cropping
Systems Working Group (CSWG 1975). Proponents of systems
methods (Witz 1973, Ebersohn 1976, and Wright 1971) often
:stress three advantages of a systems research approach:
increased systems comprehension, refined research focus, and
improved interdisciplinary communications. A fourth
advantage, emphasized by Dillon (1976), is that systems
research programs are goal-seeking, and therefore, oriented
toward problem solving.



-*nd f. r.. ..
For-mlote oPeftor-ce C, !i a
Define S5o** ore
Coopercto ZccTo.
S Construct VorCblt
Ctologed Peformance
Models E.Cluohon
( 5nthesis) Desgn A'tefnctve
t Croppeg Ss terns
System CDe~rton Test A te"c'-e
and ColtroI Systenn c~d
(Smulncaton) Monogement

1-__t ti
IRel World Ce "'oa Pre-' roducto0
System Eser entol Test, end Re-. Y
S Prototype System Ad;ustment P'cc *.cn

mpl tChange

Fig. 1. Similarities of applied research methods described
by Witz (left) and cropping systems research methods
outlined by the Cropping Systems Uorking Group (right).
(Witz 1973, CSUG 1975).

Four phases are followed in the on-farm research
methods used by IRRI (Zandstra et al 1981).

1. Target area delineation/Site description. The
target area is an extensive tract for which cropping
patterns are synthesized and tested. Land in the target area
is classified on soil and terrain features. Target areas
are usually typified by repeating patterns of farms which
operate similar enterprise mixes. The repeating patterns
arise from repeating terrain patterns, and from similarities
in climate and patterns of social and economic
A site, usually 1 to 5 villages, is selected to
represent typical conditions within the larger target area.
The physical, biotic, and socioeconomic features of the site
area are characterized for two purposes: first, patterns
are designed to fit within the physical, biotic, and
socioeconomic limitations of typical farms. Second, these
site characteristics are subsequently used to identify
locations within the gross target area having physical,
biotic, and socioeconomic conditions similar to those of the

2. Designing alternative improved cropping patterns/
Determining management variables to test. Cropping
patterns are normally designed to fit crops into a cropping
system without exceeding environmental or resource
limitations. In the monsoon tropics to which rice is
naturally adapted, the length of the hydrologic growing year
must be considered. Although a hydrologic growing year
(defined as the period of the year during which water is
sufficient to produce crops with values exceeding production
costs) depends primarily on rainfall, it is influenced by
local terrain and soil features. Other factors that will
affect agronomic feasibility (e.g., traction sources) and
economic viability (e.g., product prices) are considered
during the design phase.
For each crop in a pattern, many practices must be
specified. Those are classified into three broad
categories: crop establishment, crop care, and crop
harvesting. Some practices can be specified based on local
knowledge and general principles. To determine optimum
management levels for practices not readily specified or to
which profitability is likely to be sensitive, field
experiments replicated within or across fields or both are
conducted. Management factors that require special
consideration are those with high costs or sensitivity to

3. Testing on farmer-cooperators' field/
Experimentation on management variables. By testing a
cropping pattern in farmers' fields over a period of 3 to 4
years, the data necessary to compare alternative patterns
are generated. Cropping pattern test data are also used to
examine sensitivities to terrain features and variations in
seasonal rainfall or pest regimes. To determine the
sensitivity of critical field operations, inputs, and
planting dates, field experiments are conducted on selected
management variables. At annual workshops, unadapted
patterns are culled and input levels refined.

4. Multilocational testing/Pilot production testing.
Multilocational testing is conducted to verify the
performance of cropping patterns over the more extensive
target area, and adjust input levels for environmental
variation found in the target area but not adequately
represented in the site. In a multilocational testing
program, farms are selected on the basis of land classes
established when the target area was delineated.
In pilot production testing, the organizational
arrangements for full-scale production program are
pre-tested on a subarea. Using this experience,

organizations and operations are adjusted before the program
is expanded.

Researcher's roles/Farmer-cooperator'roles. In
cooperative research with farmers, roles must be
well-defined for two reasons. First, to assure smooth
operations and timely management, confusion must be avoided.
Second, the contribution of both groups must be understood
for interpretive purposes. Where the farmer provides land,
draft power, labor, and seeds, and the project provides
fertilizers and pesticides, interpretation will differ from
cases where the farmer provides only land. In the latter
case, power, labor, and seed regeneration constraints may be
completely removed by project resources.
When formulating a project, the roles of those
participating in research and the criteria used to judge
technology acceptability must be established. The roles and
the criteria are established during the second phase.

Agronomic feasibility criteria/Economic viability
criteria. Farmers must be able to plant within the period
specified in a cropping calendar, and yields must be
sufficiently high and reliable to demonstrate that the crops
are agronomically adapted to farm conditions. Planting and
harvest dates and crop yields are important elements in
tests of agronomic feasibility.
Size and dependability of profits from an activity and
profitability relative to alternative activities determine
economic viability. Although the technical relationships
between environment and crops may be satisfied and agronomic
feasibility achieved, economic viability may not be achieved
if product prices are not sufficiently high to generate
adequate profits.


In this section, the performance of technologies
identified as critical for the acceptance of new cropping
sequences in three lowland environments is discussed.
Readers not actively engaged in on-farm research in similar
lowland environments may wish to skim the discussions or
proceed directly to the section on miscellaneous issues.
Figure 2 summarizes rainfall patterns at three
Philippine sites. Table 1 gives information on soils,
terrain, and farm and family size. At all sites, many
cropping patterns were tested. In this paper, however,
discussion is restricted to double-crop patterns [i.e.,
rice-rice (R-R), upland crop-rice (UC-R), and rice-upland



500 -

450 -
400 -
350 -



Fig.' 2. Long-term mean monthly rainfall and alternative cropping
patterns at three IRRI cropping systems sites.

Table I. Predominant soils, terrain features, and farm and family size at the
6 cropping systems sites.

Farm size Family size
Site Soils Terrain (ha) (no.)

Iloilo Pelluderts, Eutropepts Gently sloping (1-2') 1.5 5.7
Tropfluvents, silty broad marine terrace
clay surface soils with interhill mini-
plains at the boundary
with range of hills

Pangasinan Eutropepts, clay Broad. flat plains with 1.1 5.8
loam to loamy clay slight depressions and
surface soils eroded levees in an
alluvial system

Cagayan Tropaquepts, silty Alluvial plain, no 3.0 6.4
clay to clay surface local relief, about
<0.5. slope

The hydrologic growing year determines the potential
sequences of crops that can be grown. It is influenced by
rainfall (seasonal distributions and year-to-year
differences in distribution), soil properties (internal
drainage), and terrain features (surface drainage).



When synthesizing new cropping patterns for a rainfed
rice environment, the common strategy has been to increase
frequency of harvest by replacing late-maturing traditional
rice cultivars with modern rice cultivars which mature early
(creating slack field time) and partition photosynthate
efficiently (increasing yield potential but generally
requiring improved management to exploit profitably). In
the syntheses, crops are forced both earlier and later in
the hydrologic year, thereby increasing drought hazards.
In this discussion, economic analysis and
interpretation are excluded. The economic aspects of
adoption and the impact of new cropping patterns in Iloilo
and Pangasinan are discussed in Price (1982). Detailed
linear programming analyses of Pangasinan and Iloilo are
given by Barlow et al (1983). The economics of the cropping
patterns tested in Cagayan are discussed in recent IRRI
annual reports (IRRI 1983, 1984, and 1985).

Rice-Rice Patterns (R-R)

In the mid-1970s, several rice cultivars that mature
in less than 120 days became available. An examination of
rainfall patterns or a combination of rainfall and terrain
features suggested it should be possible to grow two rice
crops in the three environments represented by Iloilo,
Pangasinan, and Cagayan, Philippines. Whereas short-
duration varieties triggered research on double rice
cropping in rainfed environments, the hydrologic growing
year and farm resource constraints forced scientists to
focus on methods to establish the first rice crop early and
reduce the interval between first crop harvest and second-
crop planting.

Iloilo. The objective was to replace a late-
maturing, tall, low-yielding, traditional crop with two
early-maturing crops. Wet seeding (pregerminated seed
broadcast on puddled soil), a strategy to avoid the risk of
not being able to transplant seedlings in the optimum age
range because early rains did not persist after nursery
establishment, was used to establish the first crop early.
Farmers could manage this establishment technique
reliably. For most farmers in most years, an accumulation
of about 200 mm rainfall was sufficient for wet seeding.
Early drought (vegetative phase) had little effect on
first-crop yield. Weeds were controlled by puddling, high
seed rates, spot hand weeding, and herbicides. Direct dry
seeding (on unpuddled soil but in bunded paddies) found
favor on some of the lighter-textured soils and in some

years. In dry-seeded rice, however, weeds were more
difficult to control.
Despite scientists' recommendation that the second
crop be transplanted to shorten its field duration and
thereby avoid drought, farmers commonly wet seeded it. Data
showed that farmers who wet-seeded (the large majority)
established their second crops about 10 days before those
who transplanted (Roxas et al 1978). Wet seeding was easier
and demanded less labor because nursery construction,
seedling pulling, and transplanting were eliminated.
When a late-maturing crop was harvested in the early
dry season, traditional foot threshing was appropriate for
processing field-stacked sheaves over 1 or 2 months. Foot
threshing, however, was unsuitable when the field had to be
prepared for a second crop. Power threshing quickly
replaced the traditional method. Power thresher adoption is
shown in Figure 3.

Users (%)
100 F..-




20 -


'77 '78


Fig. 3. Thresher adoption by rainfed
rice farmers in Iloilo,
Philippines, 1976-78. (IRRI

Because it was pushed into the wet-dry season
transition period, the second crop was exposed to drought
and yielded lower than the first crop. Double rice cropping
is now commonly practiced only on low-lying terrain and/or
where internal drainage is slow (heavy soil textures, high
water tables). Field water observations from 1976
illustrate differences between terrain positions (Fig.4).
The significance of these water regimes to second-crop
yields is obvious from Table 2. On the lower fields, the
second crop is successful although not as high yielding or
as stable as the first crop.

FSD (no./wk.)

19232731 353943475119 2327 31 35394347 51

Fig. 4. Flooded status days (FSD)
for 6 heavy-textured rainfed
Iloilo land units, weeks 19
to 51, 1976. (Mlorris and
Zandstra 1979)

Table 2. Average yields of single- and double cropped rice for Iloilo, crop years 1976-77
and 1977-78, by landscape position.a (Morris and Zandstra 1979).

_____Yields (t/ha)
Crop Sideslope Plateau Main and drainageways
year Sinqle Double inq --ToubTe Te Double
1976-77 5.1(33) b.0+1.7(67) b.2( 6) 5.3+2.3(94) 4.4(2n) 5.5+3.4(80)
1977-78 4.6(93) 6.9+1.0( 7) 5.2(96) 5.8+0 ( 4) 4.5(31) 5.8+1.8(69)

Figures in parentheses are percentages of observations. These were 15 observations on the
side slope, 32 on the plateau, and 5 on the drainageway in 1976-77, and 30, 2&, and 32 in

The main remaining constraints to double rice cropping
are the time interval between the first and second crop and
the field duration of wet-seeded second crops.

Pangasinan. Except in a small area located above a
shallow water table where a few farmers have acquired skills
necessary to make the sequence work, double rice cropping
has not been successful in Pangasinan for several reasons.
Early direct dry seeding was necessary, but tillage capacity
was limited and fields were prepared late, losing the
advantage of early rainfall. Figure 5 shows that the
research staff planted before the early rains, but farmers
(except for one) waited for the rains to start before
planting, and therefore harvested late.

Harvest date

20 -

Oct 10 -

30 -

Sep 20 F0v

20 30 10

I 1 I
20 30 9 19
May Jun
Planting date

Rainfall (mm)

9 19

Fig. 5. Dry seeded rice planting and harvest dates
in farmer-cooperator fields and in an
experiment, and daily rainfall during the
planting period, 1977. ( torris et al 1981).

* Farmer cooperator's field
v Researched-managed *

.. ..

i I 1 I T I I

Weeds were another constraint to direct dry seeding.
Chemicals used to control weeds were very sensitive to soil
moisture and therefore unreliable. The labor input for hand
weeding was too high (899 man-hours/ha,mean of 1977 and
1978) to be satisfied by family members (Fig.6). Moreover,
the breakeven point was frequently exceeded.

Cumulative frequency (%)




labor used by o17er-o raptors, 1977 and
25 j 1978

1978 1977

400 800 1200 1600 2000 2400
Labor (mon-hrs/ha)
Fig. 6. Cumulative frequencies of hand weeding
labor used by owner-operators, 1977 and
1978 (Morris et a1 1981).

Even when early rains were favorably distributed and
direct dry seeding was successful, second-crop yields were
generally low. The more delayed the first, and consequently
the second plantings, the lower the second-crop yields
(Table 3).

Table 3. Mean yields of direct dry-seeded rice (first crop)
followed by transplanted rice (second crop) by
period of first crop seeding, 1977 (Morris et al

First crop Rough rice yield (t/ha)
First crop Second crop
21 May and earlier 5.3 4.0
22-31 May 4.8 2.4
1 Jun and later 4.1 1.5

It is instructive to compare selected rainfall
patterns for Iloilo and Pangasinan. The parameters in Table
4 were determined from long-term daily rainfall records.
Pangasinan should expect a rainy season of more than 184
days in half the years but less than 146 days in 20% of the
years, suggesting little margin for lost time for the second
crop. Iloilo is much more favored for a double rice crop
sequence, with rainy seasons of more than 205 days in half
the years and less than 171 days in 20% of the years.

Table 4. Total days available for first and second rainfaed
rice crops (Morris and Zandstra 1979).

Expected Expected Days(no.)
date of date of available
Proba- 75 mm 100 mm for two
Site bililty accumulation accumulation crops

Pangasinan 0.8 11 May 4 Oct 146
Pangasinan 0.5 27 Apr 28 Oct 184
Iloilo 0.8 25 May 12 Nov 171
Iloilo 0.5 9 May 10 Dec 205

Cagayan. Figure 7 shows a cross-section of the terrain on
which rice is grown in Cagayan.

Rice Land
Active Village |--2 km
Flood plain
Upper Middle Lower

,. Cogoyan Ri...ver.' ,' ... :., '. .. .-"" *:*.'..- "' :.".-..

Fig. 7. Schematic representation of landscape, cropping systems site,
Cagayan Valley.

To double-crop rice successfully, close adherence to a
planting schedule was necessary to avoid having young
(recently transplanted) or old (postheading) crops in the
field during late October and early November when flood
probability is highest. With present technology, double
rice cropping in this environment is unreliable. When the
first rice crop was wet seeded on puddled soil in the middle
stratum, short-maturing rices generally could not compete
with weeds. When exposed to lengthy drought, rice did not
die but developed late, delaying the second crop. In the
lower stratum, first crops were transplanted. Even the lower
fields were often dry when seedlings were in the optimum age
range. As in the middle stratum, drought often prolonged
development thereby forcing the reproductive stage into a
period of greatest flood probability and/or delaying the
second rice crop.
Experience showed that without means for surface
drainage and where rainfall is as erratic as it is in this
environment (Fig. 8), wet seeding was not a suitable
technique for sowing the first crop because water could not

0 hotnll d.rowd from
1980 forn0al cyclotes

fi lLOLll1

Fig. 8. Uneven rainfall has contributed to the erratic
performance of crops in environments similar to
Solana. About half the growing-season rainfall
is derived from tropical cyclones (Baquiran et
al 1983).

Al A A -.


be controlled. When a dry period occurred after seeding,
drought and weeds limited crop development; when rains were
heavy, floods reduced plant density and tillering.
Second-crop yields were low because dry field
conditions frequently delayed transplanting, forcing farmers
to plant old seedlings of short-maturing varieties. Farmers,
however, commonly transplant traditional varieties that are
more than 60 days old. Figure 9 illustrates the relative
insensitivity of traditional varieties to seedling age.
Nevertheless, modern varieties were often higher yielding
than traditional varieties. For example, yields from
farmers' fields, where traditional varieties were grown,
were 0.6 and 1.6 t/ha (n=59 and 73) in 1980 and 1981. Yields
from farmer cooperators' fields, where modern varieties were
grown in the same years, were 1.1 and 2.7 t/ha (n=52 and
55). Modern varieties, however, have enjoyed only limited
acceptance by farmers in this environment because of their

Relative yield

.1 IR 46
S-0 IR 52 a

0.8 -
30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120
Seedling age

Fig. 9. Grain yields of modern and traditional rice varieties
expressed as ratios relative to yields from 40-day-olc
seedlings, means from 3 experiments. Solana, Cagayan -
(Gines et al, accepted for publication).

Rice-Upland Crop Patterns (R-UC)

Where rainfall-soil-terrain complexes do not combine
to produce hydrologic years of sufficient duration and
intensity to grow double rice sequences, early planted rice
crops can be followed by upland crops. Where wet season
onset is abrupt and fields are quickly saturated, rice is
the logical crop with which to start a sequence. Wet season
onsets in Iloilo and Pangasinan were rather abrupt.
Objectives were to find combinations of rice cultivars and
establishment techniques that produced high and stable
yields, but which left adequate time for an upland crop.
Furthermore a balance was sought between early and late
upland crop establishment. If established too early,
flooding was a hazard. If too late, moisture was often
inadequate for emergence and/or the crop encountered severe
late drought.

Iloilo. As in the R-R sequence, the early planted
rice crop grew well. Provided that fields were ready for
planting in October should rains cease early, the UC was not
strongly sensitive to the way the rice crop was established
or to its duration.
The upland crop was sensitive to terrain and soil
factors. Figure 4 shows how much longer water remained on
lower fields (plateaus and waterways) compared to upper
fields (plateaus and upper and middle sideslopes). Light-
textured fields were less risky with respect to flooding
than low and heavy-textured fields.
No tillage technique (minimum, zero, and conventional)
reliably promoted seed emergence. Furthermore, conventional
tillage demanded power and time, and often resulted in a
very cloddy seedbed so that seeds were not in good contact
with the soil. On heavy-textured soils, upland crops
performed poorly but on intermediate-textured soils, growth
and yields were satisfactory.
Grain legumes generally were more attractive to farmers
than cereals because they can escape drought due to their
early maturity. They do not require nitrogen fertilizer or
suffer from nutritional drought and they command strong
market prices. Despite the less-than-ideal conditions for
upland crop establishment and growth, farmers now plant
greater hectarages of mungbean and other crops.

Pangasinan. Transplanted early-maturing, modern
varieties quickly replaced transplanted.traditional and
intermediate-maturing modern varieties in Pangasinan (Fig.
10). Although direct seeding on unpuddled soils would have
left the soil in an improved state for the following upland
crop, farmers rejected direct seeding for the reasons
presented in the R-R section.

Percent of oreo
too Vonety groups
I [ tIR36

7 Modern, short-maturity
75 varieties other than IR36

] Modern, medium-maturity

50 Traditional varieties

25 -

1975 1976 1977 1978

Fig. 10. Changing percentage of Manaoag site rice area planted
to traditional, modern, early-maturing varieties and
modern, intermediate-maturing varieties (Morris et al

Farmers preferred grain legumes over coarse grains as a
crop after rice for the same reasons as in Iloilo. Before
the project started, farmers in the area commonly planted
upland crops after rice, but after adoption of early-
maturing varieties, the second crop was established earlier.
The importance of early establishment is illustrated by
Figure 11 which shows the influence of planting delays on
mungbean yields and the relationship between mungbean yield
and plant density.

Y=-136.5 4 177.00D +73.5D2 + 5.11X
R2 = 0.89

* a

Planting dates
* Nov 16
a Nov 29
o Dec 14

40 80 120 160 200 240
Plant density (no./10m2)

Fig. 11. Effect of planting date on planting density and grait
yield of mungbean; X is plant density and DI and D2
are dummy variables for 16 and 29 Nov (Mlorris et al
1981) .

As in Iloilo, no tillage technique tested (zero,
minimum, or conventional) gave reliably adequate plant
populations. Where rains after planting were heavy, the
crop .benefited from conventional tillage. Conventional
tillage, however, was seldom economically superior to zero
tillage or minimum tillage.




Upland Crop-Rice Patterns (UC-R)

For environments where the wet season onset is gradual
and/or soils are permeable, harvest frequency can be
increased by planting upland crops before rice. For
reasonably reliable yields, the expected period between the
date of earliest effective rains and the date of damaging
soil saturation should be 70 to 90 days. Pre-rice crops
should be able to cope with occasional short periods of
excess moisture.
In this type of environment, by the time the first
crop is ready for harvest, fields will have been very wet
and crop residues and late weed growth heavy. Therefore,
rice will commonly be transplanted on puddled soils. Rice
may encounter drought and/or floods depending on seasonal
rainfall distributions and terrain features. Therefore, in
selecting rice cultivars and management practices, the most
common local hydrologic patterns should be considered.

Cagayan. Mungbean was tested as a crop to fit into
a 70-day period (last half of April to end of June) in the
upper stratum. Mungbean was not a new crop in the area but
farmers' average yields were less than 100 kg/ha and failure
was common. Table 5 shows the traditional and cooperators'
yields. Variation between years was high. An improved
variety was tested at a seed rate double the farmers'.
Yields exceeded 1.5 t/ha on some fields in some years, but
complete crop losses occurred on other fields when early
rains were heavy. Although mungbean was planted on schedule,
crop damage from heavy rainfall, which caused temporary
flooding, was severe in all but a few cases.

Table 5. Mungbean yields from local (traditional and
cropping systems project (cooperators) tech-

Yield (kg/ha)
1980 1981 1982

Traditional 0 67 43
(42) (39) (20)

Cooperators 88 472 309
(13) (16) (10)

a/Figures in parentheses are number of

Figure 12 shows weekly rainfall against the cumulative
number of fields planted in 1980. In this environment,
mungbean yields are commonly depressed by short periods of
heavy rainfall such as experienced between 11 and 21 May

Cumulative no. of planted fields

1 20c ... 30
10 20 30

Rainfall (mm)







j_ o

10 20 30 10

Planting date

Fig. 12. Effect of rainfall on mungbean planting dates,
Solana, Cagayan, 1980.

Most of the differences between yields from farmers'
traditional mungbean practices and yields from practices
recommended by the project were attributed to the higher
seed rate and therefore to greater plant density. Farmers,
however, are reluctant to plant at higher seed rates because
seeds are expensive and flood risks are high.
Rice crops were scheduled for transplanting in August
or early September, but the schedule could seldom be kept
because soils were too dry for field operations. Direct
seeding proved unreliable because water was often inadequate
to sustain newly emerged seedlings and weed competition was
strong when rice was suffering drought stress. Limitations

to field operations and yields of the second crop in the
UC-R pattern were similar to those of the second crop in the
R-R pattern.


The following issues, seldom discussed in papers on
farming systems research methods, may be recognized as
issues only after a few years of on-farm research.

Relationships with research
station-oriented scientists

The purpose of on-farm cropping systems research should
be carefully defined to dispel notions that on-farm cropping
systems research competes with conventional agricultural
research programs in agricultural research institutions and
universities. Figure 13 suggests that on-farm cropping
systems research is an interface between farmers' production
environment and agricultural scientists' academic
environment. In developing countries, where small-scale
producers lack the means to communicate directly with the
scientific community, on-farm cropping systems research
should enable scientists to identify high-priority research
needs more accurately and to focus resources on those needs
more efficiently.




SCloassical Scientific Classicol Scientific A Choice of Technique
Method, Reductionist Method, Reductionist (e g., choice of insecticide)
or Anolytical or Anolyticol
Standard Field
Testing Methods
B Synthesis of Alternative
Cropping Systems On-form
Systems Analysts systems
Convergence of research

ig. 13. The technology development continuum shows on-farm cropping systems research as an
adaptive research activity positioned between applied research and dissemination

Figure 14 illustrates the effects of a cropping systems
research program on productivity increases from a
conventionally oriented research institute operating in a
modernizing agricultural environment. Cropping systems
scientists are responsible for conducting the on-farm
research necessary to incorporate innovations into improved
cropping systems, and diagnosing, as precisely as possible,
the causes of poor crop adaptation, managerial
infeasibility, or economic incompetitiveness. Figure 14
implies that a cropping systems research program should help
discipline-oriented scientists identify critical limiting
factors or operations for which productivity-increasing
innovations can be developed. These identifications should
be more frequent than is now the case.

Introduction of innovations


S Without

'rio. 14. Increased agricultural production
in an agroecological zone derived
from innovations developed by re-
search institutes with and without
on-fmrn cropping systems research

Whereas research methods, materials, and standards
within disciplines are firmly established and widely
accepted, this is not the case with cropping systems
research methods. Because the role of cropping systems
research and the methods it uses are not well crystallized,
research credibility continues to challenge cropping systems
scientists. Conceptual diagrams, 35-mm slides of rural
scenes, and testimonies go only so far. To increase
credibility and communication with agricultural scientists

who limit research activities to experiment stations,
greenhouses, and laboratories, cropping systems scientists
must demonstrate that their research projects have been
well-formulated, data have been collected by reliable
methods, results are reproducible, and logical conclusions
have been drawn. A heavy burden falls on the presentation
of evidence and application of logic on that evidence.
Whereas statistical procedures must be applied to various
components of an on-farm research project (e.g., experiments
in farmers' fields and observational studies), statistical
methods can seldom be used at the systems or subsystems
level. At the systems or subsystems level, cropping systems
scientists must rely on convergence of evidence to support
conclusions. Furthermore, where negative evidence
accumulates against an innovation, they must present it
tactfully to the innovators.

Relationships with extension programs

Relationships with extension programs present
particular problems. First, extension agents vary in
biases, technical qualifications, familiarity with research
procedures, and knowledge of local agricultural practices
and field conditions. They may be motivated toward contacts
with large and powerful farmers, even to the point of asking
local elite to nominate potential farmer-cooperators and
project employees. Therefore, it may be wiser to involve
regional subject matter specialists, rather than local field
extension agents, in a project. Field extension agents,
however, must be consulted and informed of plans,
operations, and results as they become available. Extension
agents must understand that the cropping systems research
project is a research project, not a competitive extension
project. Advice solicited from local agents can be used if
it is sound, and quietly ignored if unsound.
Another reason for de-emphasizing participation of
field extension agents in the early phases of site research
is that there may be more weaknesses than strengths in the
innovations being tested. The performance of an extension
program, however, is evaluated on impact, often in the short
run. While cropping systems research programs can maintain
viability by showing research progress, including the
identification of heretofore unrecognized constraints to
intensification, and expanding the general knowledge base,
extension agents may be tempted to extend innovations that
are marginally acceptable and will have little if any

By involving subject matter specialists in the cropping
systems research project, linkages with extension are
maintained and the not-invented-here and the
impact-reputation syndromes can be avoided. If research
shows that innovations merit further examination, local
extension agents can be encouraged to test them across
locations multilocationn testing). At this point, the
agents should be in a position to look at the innovation
more objectively than they might had they invested time in
initial testing.

Relationships with local political leadership

Rural communities are often strongly factionalized,
sometimes by political ideologies and affiliations,
sometimes by personal power rivalries, and sometimes by
both. The field staff must quickly recognize local factions
and maintain good working relationships across factions. If
field assistants, enumerators, and laborers are hired
locally, care must be taken to hire compatible personnel.
Hiring suspicious candidates nominated by local officials
should be avoided lest someone be hired who expects to be
paid for token performance.

Size of cooperating-farmer test fields

A 1000-m2 field (4 to 12% of a rice farm in most of
Asia) serves as a scale model for a series of sequential
cropping activities. It takes a far er with a single draft
animal about 4 hours to plow 1000 m Transplanting and
hand weeding have high labor demands, but these operations
are often done in short periods by groups of laborers. Many
other field operations (e.g., interrow cultivation, row
sowing, threshing), although not as time-consuming as
plowing, require more than an hour for 1000 m Because
fields are of significant size, farmers react verbally or
fail to act if a suggested field operation demands too much
of his resources. When fields are this large, marginal
field-suitable conditions (usually sub or supraoptimal
moisture for a field operation) cannot be lightly
disregarded as they might when2only 50 or 100 m are
cultivated. Therefore, 1000-m fields will at least yield
hints about labor and power constraints and unsuitable field
conditions. 2
The 1000-m field is the observational unit and what
the farmer does or does not do on that field, together with

output from the field, are observed. These observations are
analyzed to determine agronomic adaptation and managerial
feasibility and serve as part of the data to test economic

Research site staff recruitment

Experience has shown that it is advantageous to hire
young men and women from the village for positions that
require practical skills and familiarity with local
These persons, hired on a project basis for 3 to 5
years, are strongly motivated and facilitate the development
of rapport between the technical staff who must be
transferred to the site area and farmers. Furthermore, by
hiring staff locally, absenteeism arising from extended
weekend trips home or to headquarters is eliminated. The
transfer of fewer people to the project site also reduces
chances for violations of social norms. The cost of
breaking in a new staff more than pays off in a short


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