Agricultural Systems, International Programs &
The Emerging Land Grant System*
by Chris O. Andrew**
Agriculture Is International
Farmers of the world share a comaon bond. In this age, spanning from
poverty to plenty and 100 horsepower tractor culture to hoe culture, the
family farm response to risk and approach to security set it apart from
many other segments of society. Farmers know how to tighten their belts.
They are masters at hedging. Better than any other people they know how
to"make do" and have proven their ability to "get by". Many agricultural
scientists and policy makers do not understand this socio-agroecological
Agriculture throughout the world is in disarray and for many food
security is threatened. As the Africa food crises continues and the
situation of chronic food insecurity remains unabated, American agriculture
is in disarray. Growing surpluses, heavy farm debts, farm foreclosures,
massive farm subsidy costs, weakened demand for US products in world
markets, falling land values, and a mis-directed farm policy, which fails
to address the complexity of the world agricultural system, exemplify the
Worldwide agricultural disarray is largely due to governments that have
allowed industrial concerns to supplant the basic monetary, fiscal and
agricultural policy needs of rural societies. In part, as a result of this
continuous deterioration, 750 million people in the developing world suffer
from chronic food insecurity. In the United States, as a world class
agricultural industry staggers from economic distortions, numerous medium-
sized and relatively young farm operations, which make major contributions
to the world food supply, are stressed to the point of bankruptcy. Young
farmers beginning their careers in the 1970s were introduced to an
"inflation mentality" that permeated the production and banking system.
Now there is great difficulty in adjusting to the need for a "deflation
mentality" where overinvestment and high debt-to-asset ratios challenge
every management fiber of the modern agriculturalist. As a result, the
United States may be left with primarily small farms dependent upon
diversified off-farm income sources and large corporate farms subject to
inconsistent industrial management behavior to supply domestic and world
food needs. The loss of the medium sized farmer will further reduce world
food security and even food security in this country where consumers have
* Paper presented to the University of Nebraska agricultural faculty
December 10, 1985.
** Chris O. Andrew is Professor of Food & Resource Economics, Associate
Director of International Programs, and Director of the USAID Farming
Systems Support Project, University of Florida. Comments are those of the
author and do not represent the official position of either the University
of Florida or FSSP/USAID. Appreciation is expressed to Steve Kearl and
Lisette Walecka for their questions and contributions.
As we link the chronic food insecurity problem in the developing
countries with the economic difficulties of farmers in the developed
countries, it becomes evident that the world economic order has not
strengthened effective demand for agricultural products, a condition
heretofore essential to economic well-being and development. Effective
demand by consumers, not competition between farmers of different nations,
is the primary problem (Kellogg, 1985). Experience shows that agricultural
development in competing economies stimulates purchasing power and the
demand for the agricultural products in both countries. The more developed
country experiences an expanded market because the overall development
process both generates capital and creates a demand. (Wennergren, 1985,
Nightingale, 1982). Our present downward economic spiral does nothing to
prime the pump for this development process. The isolationist attitude
prescribed by sane and vocalized by others in rural America, further
exacerbates the problem.
United States agriculture and international agriculture are
inextricably interdependent. (Lewis, 1984). Isolation is not possible in
the world food and agricultural system. Nor is it desirable. The world is
the market for US products and the welfare of US agriculture depends upon
world demand. Likewise, the world is a resource base from which US
agriculture draws a complementary production capability. We gain from the
scientific experience of our professionals working in international
settings. We gain from the development of high technology support systems
such as computer hardware and petro-chemically-based farm inputs. We gain
in research by drawing upon the world germ plasm base for improving
agricultural varieties. And we gain by understanding pest and disease
problems through amplified biological control practices that rely on both
developing resistant plants and location of pest preditors in a-worldwide
The challenge we face within the land grant system is to keep our
institutions, our faculty and our clientele prepared for rapid evolution
within agriculture on a worldwide basis. (Leu, 1984). We are not doing
our share in addressing the world food problem as educators and research
scientists. Since US agriculture is dependent upon the world economy and
the world environment, we must address this broad spectrum if our faculty
is to be responsive to a farmer-client. Land grant universities need to
change their supporting institutional structures to survive the wrenching
changes necessary in research and education.
Early challenges faced by the land grant system were overcome with
relatively greater ease than we will be able to overcome the present world
food security challenge. The complexity of our present challenge, while
deserving our undivided attention, does not come at a time when US concern
is for agriculture. Moreover, it comes at a time when the system is
concerned with maintaining itself and the status quo more than creatively
addressing the international dimensions and global reality of challenging
Institutional preparedness has historically emerged through two
completed phases of the land grant system. A third phase is now emerging
to address our current dilemma. Phase I spanned a time period beginning in
1862 with the Morill Act followed by the Hatch Act (1887) and then the
Smith-Lever Act (1914) establishing respectively the teaching, research and
extension capabilities of the land grant system. This rich history
deserves attention in our educational programming. However, many of our
younger faculty and students are not even exposed to this history tracing
this country's establishment of a general focus on agriculture and
Phase II began with the need for more discipline-specific teaching,
research and problem solving for the farmer-client. Thus, as farm
management spun-off from agronomy in the 1920s and later became
agricultural economics, agronomy differentiated into various disciplinary
activities including horticulture, field crops, plant protection, soil
science, and others. The animal sciences emerged as another set of
disciplinary concerns along with veterinary medicine. In most instances
the development of the disciplines was fairly complete and
well-accomplished over the 50 year period extending from 1914 to 1965. The
necessity of this Phase II activity is apparent. Successful development of
various hybrid varieties and other breakthroughs in agricultural production
(that extended from US agriculture to a green revolution for some) can be
attributed to discipline and subdiscipline specificity. The world class
nature of US agriculture has its underpinnings in Phase II activity of the
land grant system. We can take great pride in a major contribution to
education, research, and extension in that effort.
Following phase II, however, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it
became obvious that-the overall agricultural environment, moving from
national to international dimensions was more complex than had been
previously understood. Interactions with the urban sector relative to
environmental results of agriculture's dependence on petro-chemicals,
became a point of conflict. Internationalization of agricultural markets
created concerns stemming from major distortions in the distribution of
wealth and income throughout the world. Similarly it became evident that,
for many scientific and production advances, the technology development
process needed to take full measure of the farm system in
Phase III of land grant evolution can be addressed from the perspective
of a systems orientation. Assuming with continued investment the base is
sound in disciplinary work, the future needs to be tailored to meet
broad-based problem-solving concerns in large part not previously
encountered by agricultural researchers or policy makers. As the land
grant system moved from its general agronomic base in the 1920s to
disciplines and sub-disciplines for specialized problem solving, the focus
tended to be on commodity research.
A recent move from the cnmiodity research base has been in the
direction of cropping systems research including various crop combinations.
Commodity and cropping systems research continue to provide the basis for
agronomic input from research institutions and research stations into the
The whole farm system, however, includes crop, intercrop and livestock
enterprises within the content of a farm household managed by both men and
women. In the dynamic agriculture of today's world all of these
interrelated farm enterprises need to be considered. Technology generation
and production improvements relating to numerous mixed crop and
livestock systems and family concerns is termed farming systems research.
On a global scale, the farming system, while more comprehensive than
cropping systems or single commodities as units of analysis, is also
insufficient to address the total concern of the agricultural sector.
Agricultural systems research, focused on the agricultural sector as a
whole, demands attention if agricultural policy is to help realign
distortions now experienced in world agriculture.
The institutional challenge of Phase III for accomplishing
interdisciplinary research and education is extended to land grant
administrators who have responsibility for agricultural research, extension,
and education. Your faculties of agriculture today respond to different
drummers than those of their predecessors. They respond primarily to the
leadership given by the national association in their particular
discipline. It is the members and heads of those "great societies" who
command the attention of your agricultural faculty. The great societies
include, among others, the disciplines of agricultural economics, animal
science, agronomy and entomology. Faculties are mobile from one university
to another with a dedication to their professions and societies that
exceeds and sometimes effectively excludes coanittment to the individual
state's agricultural concerns.
Presently multi-disciplinary problem solving for a client takes second
seat to research and education systems driven by discipline and peer-
oriented professional societies. This indirectly but pervasively skews the
reward system for scientists and educators, further emphasizing exclusivity
in achieving for the profession. As "professionalism" replaces scholarly
scientific application in the land grant system, we forego the early
pragmatic ability of agricultural colleges to confront society's problems
from a vocational vantage point. As this institutional drift prevails US
agriculture's most important inputs-human resources, and research results-
are increasingly less prepared to address the holistic nature of even the
most commercial mono-crop farms, let alone diversified farming systems.
This situation, coupled with staggering market and political problems,
leads to the conclusion that educational institutions in the US have not
kept pace with the changing economic environment (Ed Schuh 1984).
Thus, the concern for the Phase III land grant institution is to
prepare faculty for work in 1) commodity specialties, 2) cropping systems,
3) farming systems, and 4) agricultural systems. Without an international
perspective Phase III will not achieve the success of Phase II. This is
recognized by the Title XII legislation (York, 1984). The challenge before
land grant institutions is how well their agricultural scientists.grasp
international agriculture and place domestic problems in that context.
Our faculty and students are hardly prepared to face the challenges of
twenty-first century agriculture. How many of your faculty and students,
if they have not experienced farming first-hand, have received a
sufficiently broad agricultural education to understand some of the whole
farm and whole sector problems challenging our clientele today? How often
do your molecular biologists work with a plant or your agricultural
economists with a farmer? These questions deserve consideration because
they challenge the very viability of US agriculture and our land grant
Agriculture is holistic by nature. It deserves careful attention to
detail but also an understanding of how detail impacts upon the whole. We
are challenged to perform as an interdisciplinary faculty by drawing from a
multidisciplinary base to address problem solving from the perspective of a
farmer, the ultimate interdisciplinarian. To accomplish this task we need
faculty who are solidly based in their disciplines but moved to
interdisciplinary action beyond the scope of their disciplines. Experience
for whole farm research and education must be gained not only in the US but
also in other developed and the less developed countries.
PHASE III METHODOLOGY
Commodity research searches for quicker and more direct means to
develop plants capable of increased production under more stressful
environments. Genetic engineering provides an opportunity to accelerate
the breeding process. Commodity research through genetic engineering must
consider three necessary conditions:
1) Bio-technology research requires careful and well-thought-out
research investments. Even though bio-technology applications promise an
opportunity to save considerable time in the commodity research process
this means there are numerous options for which funding might be well
placed. Bio-technology research must receive scrutiny to follow paths that
contribute to product not just science, and then a ccnanittment to resources
necessary to see it through.
2) Bio-technology research cannot succeed unless it is accompanied by
the less glamorous field testing of results. This testing must have a
farmer orientation in the research and include a feedback mechanism
soliciting new biological material that is condusive to farmer use. If
this is not done, bio-technology research will not yield consistently
acceptable results to farmers.
3) Bio-technology research must rely on development of well-attended
genetic material holdings from throughout the world. This means
maintaining an expanding international germ plasm pool to keep from losing
species that may potentially provide breeding material to solve major
difficulties. As plant genes are altered there will be a need for a full
complement of special characteristics found in sane traditionally low
yielding plants located in various countries of the world. Likewise germ
plasm culled from a temperate zone as inferior may contain desirable traits
necessary for harsher or different environments.
Fundamental commodity research is necessary and will continue. It will
be a reason for increased discipline specificity.
Equally important is adaptive research. Adaptive research brings
results of that basic science orientation to test by farmers in a two way
process that ultimately leads to adoption. Unless this is accomplished,
high-tech approaches will continue to disassociate people in agricultural
science from the specific food production problem. What follows directly
from this disassociation are fundamental resource use problems that
distract researchers from goals of effective food production and
distribution. High-tech agriculture, with specialized science, needs
"high-touch" adaptation by researchers and farmers if effective resource
conserving technology development is to further augment production.
Those that do fundamental and applied research must develop a greater
capability for interdisciplinary work and a better understanding of the
problems for which their research is directed. In a similar way, the
degree of discipline specificity that now emerges with genetic engineering,
calls for attention to multidisciplinary interaction or basic research
itself will not be an effective base for technology development.
Cropping Systems Research
Cropping systems research involves various multi-cropping,
interplanting and tillage techniques. The crop interaction rendering best
resource use is considered along with complementarity in nutrient
development and use, plant protection, resource conservation and other
beneficial associations. While study of the interaction of plants in a
given ecological environment is increasingly necessary, the movement toward
discipline and carmodity specific activity has reduced interest in cropping
systems research. Good cropping systems research scientists are good
general agronomists. But there are fewer and fewer general agronomists
available. Most cropping systems research is less professionally rewarding
in educational systems where rewards are based on delivery of research
products to a professional society of peers.
Farming Systems Research
Farming systems research is concerned with the notion that farm men
and women are rational decision makers and influence the overall production
system in a manner that is not entirely obvious from a cropping systems
perspective. The farmer works within a holistic system inclusive of
cropping systems combinations, livestock and other subsystem linkages that
constrain managerial and labor time. In this framework the farm household
embodies a multiple set of objectives that influence productivity.
Individual farm systems differ but generally common characteristics are
identifiable that provide a basis for farmer oriented research with a group
of farmers. This involvement allows for incorporation of farm-level input
into cropping systems and commodity based research so that the results will
be acceptable to resolve production constraints. This farmer-involved
technology development and adaptation activity generally includes:
1. Diagnosis Identifies problems in specific systems.
2. Design Generates alternative solutions to specific problems.
3. Testing Tests tentative solutions under farm conditions.
4. Evaluation Evaluates acceptability of selected solutions.
5. Extension Promotes use of acceptable technology.
This integrating process requires interaction between social and
biological scientists. Multidisciplinary teams are not always necessary
for this research. It is necessary that the research scientist or team
display a socio-cultural capability along with a crop-livestock capability.
Not every scientist will have all of these tools but every scientist should
be trained to generally understand the importance of this complementary
process (Kline, 1984). The continuum from a basic commodity research
approach to an on-farm farming systems research orientation includes varied
proportions in the social science/biological science ratio. The American
Society of Agronomy is to be congratulated for emphasizing integrated
approaches to multidisciplinary research and education through special
sessions and annual meetings. Just last week, the ASA approved a
Production Agriculture Journal as a place for applied agriculture
researchers of all disciplines to publish.
Farming systems research extends beyond the overall and general
orientation presently within the land grant system. The capability and
capacity for this activity lies within the system itself and I have every
confidence that it will emerge fully. Nevertheless, a concerted effort is
required to bring forth the necessary multidisciplinarity with a systems
focus on farms. It is not a question of farming systems research in place
of the more fundamental conmodity and cropping systems foci, but one of
sufficient balance to provide for development of technology that has an
ability to nurture and augment our agricultural capability.
Agricultural systems research suggests an approach or methodology in a
holistic consideration of the agricultural sector. It is more than
macro-economics and it is more than an overall agro-ecosystems perspective
(Bawden 1985). It integrates the major concerns of an agricultural
sector in such a way that conceptually the "complex" constraints and
stresses can be considered to reduce the prolonged impact of orientation to
short-term and "simple" problems. The approach calls for a basic
agricultural resource use strategy. Presently there is no basic resource
use strategy of adequacy in the world with which ecological decline might
be abated. This could occur, however, if agricultural systems concepts
were applied to policy making for the total agricultural sector within the
Disciplines and commodity interests have directly contributed to
specialized agricultural policy with little concern for impacts on the
entire system. This may explain why agricultural policy is failing
internationally and nationally as a guide to agricultural research and
development and ultimately food security. Specialized policy making
ignores the political/normative base and results in serious means/ends
,conflicts that are devastating to further advances in agricultural
production. As the normative base of an agricultural system and its
implications are ignored, problems such as those resulting from
overemphasis on pesticides set the stage for an environmentally disturbed
situation that ultimately results in policy detrimental to food production.
Specialization at the farm level adds another twist to our concern.
One might expect that specialized agricultural production in a monocrop
enterprise context would accommodate greater specialization in research and
less concern for either the farming system or the overall agriculture
system. Unfortunately this is not true. These specialized farming systems
contain numerous complex subsystems that are necessary for agricultural
production in a monocrop environment. There are increasingly complex
family related concerns through the household itself and the overall
economic system that impinge on the farming system. These are evident
today as medium sized US farmers are challenged in their very existence.
Finally, specialized farms no longer have a political power base. As
groups they usually are weak and when amalgamated within an agricultural
system that must respond competitively with powerful national interest
groups, their concerns, if heard, are overlooked. The traditional approach
to agricultural policy formulation is becoming less functional. The
agricultural systems approach to policy formulation will help integrate
salient common needs and permit agricultural policy to more fully consider
the issues of food security.
While this discussion of cnomodity, cropping system, farming system,
and agricultural system based research and policy does not go into
methodological detail, the intent is to conceptually demonstrate a need for
broader based orientation within the overall approach of the land grant
system. One of the leading indicators of assistance as we move toward a
more responsive institutional structure to include these four activities,
is the strength of the interface between international and domestic
programs for faculty development and institutional responsibility.
Phase III; The International/Domestic Program
It is appropriate to think through again the interface between each of
the levels in the agricultural research and development approach discussed
above. Commodity research provides an opportunity for the exchange of germ
plasm on an international basis. In most instances the origin of plants
grown in the US is not the US itself. (York, 1984). The genetic ancestors
of our crops maintain resistance to some of our local disease and pest
problems. We must return to those plants, preserve the germ plasm and
utilize their best traits to strengthen our plants for production under
various kinds of stressed environments. The Sorghum Millet CRSP managed by
the University of Nebraska has taken advantage of these commodity
opportunities. There are numerous examples throughout the US of such
activity for essentially every crop that is grown. Many of the preditors
that might assist with both disease and pest control are found in other
countries with environments similar to those of the US. Bringing .the
entire preditor family together often can reduce the need for expensive
control measures that influence the farm and the farming system as well as
the agricultural sector and the agricultural system.
Cropping systems research can also benefit from international
observation. Crop combinations and practices that have been underway for
years, even centuries, provide useful guidelines about the complementary
role plants play in specific eco-systems. Even no-till research and
standard rotation production practices rely upon careful consideration of
cropping systems practices. Without major investments it is possible to
see same of these combinations working on some of the smallest and poorest
farms in the world.
Farming systems themselves entail a number of internationally
exchangeable guides. The practices of farmers in the division of labor and
with risk aversion offer similarities even as economic and size boundaries
are crossed. The rationale and practice becomes the critical dynamic basis
for understanding how people can respond and survive under adverse
agricultural situations. Practices under various kinds of production
constraints can influence the type of research necessary in the development
of technologies and production potentials in given agro-ecological systems.
Agricultural systems encompasses serious challenges that influence
agriculture through policy, trade, economics and politics, to name a few.
If we learn from these distresses, whether man-made or otherwise, we can
better fine-tune national agricultural systems and share these experiences
as alternative considerations for agricultural development.
It is not a question of whether international agricultural programs and
international involvements will contribute to Phase III of the land grant
system. Rather it is a question of how the system evolves and successfully
achieves domestic ends within an international environment. The
University, the State, and the Nation are necessarily international. We
must view the land grant system as one that operates within an
international environment. It might also be viewed as one that focuses
upon an international clientele as a set in a way that is complementary to
the needs of the national clientele subsets.
Phase III; The Land Grant System
The role and responsibility of the land grant system changes little as
we enter Phase III. The challenge to fulfill that role and responsibility
however, is unprecedented. Given the successes in Phase I and Phase II
there is a natural feeling that the system will evolve to accomplish this
challenge without major distortion or threat. We must not be so
complacent. Major professional and institutional distortions are upon us
and an unprecedented challenge to the overall land grant system is
emerging. I firmly believe in the land grant system; I was raised on a
farm and have worked within that system my entire life. Nevertheless, I am
alarmed because land grant universities are relinquishing to
discipline-oriented societies the responsibility and trust in leading
faculty. This shakes the land grant system to its very foundation.
Research and technology development should be refocused on the client.
But who is the client? Our client is within the food and fiber system
generally embodying producers, consumers and all supporting elements
between the two groups. It is not our professional peer groups. The peer
group is a means to an end to be sure but when the peer group becomes our
client we have mixed our means and ends objectives. The land grant system
is far-reaching. The clients of your work are both the Nebraskan and
Morrocan farmers as well as sorghum and millet producers throughout the
world. These farmers can benefit from your research and the resulting
income stimulates economic development and further effective demand for
farm products. This process leads to food security.
A reconsideration of focus in agricultural education is absolutely
necessary. Educational programs and institutions convey knowledge,
attitudes, beliefs, and norms. How is the land grant system doing in
socializing its output to support the broad spectrum of societal needs in
the US and the world? Is the land grant system missing the political
dynamics of the day and overlooking its own role and responsibility?
Education is a political matter. In a normative context agricultural
education influences not only our human resources but how we use our
natural resources. Educational institutions are political because they use
financial resources themselves.
Here lies our achille's heel.
We have a responsibility to train policy makers for the future. We
must train policy scientists and policy makers to deal with the
agricultural sector. Is our current stock of knowledge adequate to this
task or have we avoided keeping up with the normative and systems bases of
our agricultural sector? We must train policy scientists to help with
problem solving but how well are we doing in training people for
responsible broad-based problem solving? In some instances we act as if
agricultural scientists do not have responsibility for the resulting
decisions that emanate from their research. Every scientist down to the
most specific specialization has a responsibility to work in an environment
that is not value-free. Organizational goals must be clarified such that
the land grant system can point toward future education and research needs.
While these goals are not clear at present to our scientists and students
it behooves us to help make those goals clear. They are the basis for
Phase III of the land grant system.
The potential of the land grant institution lies in its ability to
incorporate international involvement with the domestic setting because we
operate daily in an international arena. Some closing principles apply to
integrated international and domestic agricultural research and education.
They are the need to:
1. Identify change in the farm community in a socio-political context
and relate that back to commodity oriented agricultural research and
2. Place agricultural production in a total resource use context based
upon a strategy that involves agriculture the world over as well as in the
3. Identify detailed farm policy but within an agricultural system that
contributes to a resource use strategy and to overall production potentials
4. Identify the commodity/discipline oriented action that is necessary
to support farming systems and agricultural systems.
5. Give farmers a direct role in identifying the farm system, its
constraints, and finally, in testing technology to overcome those
6. Recognize that ours is a farmer-client driven system.
7. Balance responsibility between land grant institutions and
professional societies such that:
faculty contribute to client oriented problem solving,
from a multi disciplinary university environment,
with integrity to reward those contributing to the necessary
interdisciplinary research and education product.
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Kellog, Earl. "University Involvement in International Agricultural
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Proceedings May 29-31, 1985.
Kline, Wesley. "Agronomic and Sociological Interaction in Field Research."
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No 4, 1985.
Leu, Larry, et. al. "Michigan Agriculture and its Linkages to Developing
Nations." Institute of International Agriculture, Michigan State
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Lewis, Lowell. "Research and Agricultural Trade: A paper prepared for the
Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy 1984".
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and Development: Guidelines for Developing Countries. Westview
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Wennergren, Boyd E. "The United States and World Agricultural
Development." The consortium for International Cooperation in Higher
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Agriculture an Imperative." Seaman A. Knapp Memorial Lecture, Annual
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