IN NATIONAL AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH:
On-farm Research within IDIAP, Panama
Juan Carlos Martfnez*
Jos6 Rom6n Arauz**
CIMMYT Economics Program Working Paper 02/83
A partial version of this report was presented as an invited paper in the Farming Systems Research
Symposium, Kansas State University, November 21-23, 1982. The ideas presented are those of the
authors and do not necessarily represent those of the sponsoring institutions.
* Regional Economist, CIMMYT Regional Economics Program for Central America and the
Caribbean. The activities of the Regional Program are supported by a grant from the Swiss
** Agronomist, Regional Research Coordinator, Instituto de Investigaci6n Agropecuaria de
Panam6 (IDIAP), Chiriquf, Panama.
I. THE NATIONAL FRAMEWORK AND THE. INSTITUTIONAL ORGANIZATION OF IDIAP 1
II. THE CAISAN PROGRAI: PLANNING STAGE.............................. 3
Information Gathering at the Farmer Level........................ 3
Use of Survey Information to Plan Experimental Work.............. 5
1. Definition of Recommendation Domains.......................... 5
2. Research Opportunities......................................... 6
2.1. Technological Components for the First Cycle of On-Farm
Weed Control.................................. ............ 6
Spatial Arrangement-Density................................ 7
Fertilizer Requirements................................... 7
Lodging......................................... ........ 8
2.2. Technological Components Beyond the First Cycle............ 9
Research Strategy and Trial Management.......................... 10
III.FIRST CYCLE RESULTS AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS...................... 13
Exploratory Trials.......................... o .................. 13
Levels Trials................................................... 18
Types of Herbicides and Dosages............................ 18
Types of Herbicides and Timing of Application .............. 19
Levels of Nitrogen and Phosphorous......................... 20
Integrating Survey and Experimental Results...................... 20
IV. BEYOND THE FIRST CYCLE: TECHNOLOGY VERIFICATION, TRANSFER,
AND ADOPTION.................. .................. ............... 23
Most Important Implications of the Second and Third Cycle of
Trials ..... ..................................................... 23
Verification Trials ...................... .................. 27
Demonstration Plots............................................. 30
Farmer Response: Adoption of Recommended Practices............... 30
V. CONCLUSIONS: COST EFFICIENCY AND PROJECTIONS OF THE CAISAN
PROGR.AM.... ............................................ ......... 33
In cooperation with researchers in national agricultural research
programs, CIEYT has sought to develop procedures which help to focus
agricultural research squarely on the needs of farmers. The process
involves collaboration of biological and social scientists (for the most
part economists) for identifying groups of farmers for whom technologies
are to be developed, defining their circumstances and problems, screening
this information for research opportunities, and then implementing the
resulting research program on experiment stations and in the fields of
The Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias de Panama (IDIAP) is
a young institution, having been created in 1975, with the basic goal of
reaching Panamanian farmers with technologies appropriate to their
specific agroeconomic circumstances. With this goal in mind, an agreement
was sought with CIIMYT for cooperative work in an area-specific, on-farm
research program, the first one of its kind to be carried out in Panama,
and one which was expected to serve as a source of methodological and
organizational experience in this type of research. The model program was
designed for the area of Caisan under the leadership of IDIAP and with
technical support from CIWYT, drawing on the experiences of other
countries where national program and CIMMYT staff were jointly engaged in
The essential elements of the process which emerged were: 1) the
identification of potential research areas in terms of national
priorities, 2) the organization of exploratory survey work, 3) the
delineation of tentative recommendation domains, 4) the implementation of
more intensive surveys where needed, 5) the prescreening of information
to identify leverage points for biological research, 6) the initiation of
on-farm experimentation under conditions of representative farmers and
oriented by the survey process, 7) the adjustment of subsequent
experimentation in terms of yearly results, and 8) the orientation of
relevant experiment station research in terms of the findings from the
surveys and on-farm experiments. These are the themes around which the
description of the work in Panama is organized.
The report describes the collaborative work undertaken in Caisan,
the results in terms of technology development and farmer adoption, and
the present and potential implications for the organization of IDIAP
activities and allocation of resources. Emphasis is given to prescreening
and to the process through which annual trials were adjusted on the basis
of earlier experimental results. We believe that the Caisan experience
offers solid evidence of the utility of on-farm research and provides
another example of how such research can be' planned and carried out
within a larger research program.
Similar reports from other countries, based on their varied
experiences, will follow in the near future. It is hoped that they will
encourage an ever wider application of on-farm research as decision
makers see the utility of the process and the alternative forms for its
Rcdrigo Tarte Donald Winkelmann, Director,
General Director Economics Program,
I. THE NATIONAL FR ON7ORK AND THE INSTITUTIONAL ORGANIZATION OF IDIAP
Panama has characteristics which distinguish the country from the
rest of Central America. First, the effect of the Panama Canal on the
economy has led to the development of an important financial and
commercial sector geared toward international trade; this is reflected in
the relative importance of the services sector within the country's gross
national product (about 65%). Second, Panama's rich natural resources, in
relation to its population of some two million, and its ecological
diversity offer the potential for self-sufficiency in food production.
The agricultural policy of the government during the past decade is
a clear indication of its intention to increase domestic production of
basic grains to satisfy the rising per capital level of consumption of the
growing population. In particular, the government's pricing policy has
stimulated domestic grain production for import substitution. In the
early 1970s, relative prices of basic grains increased as a result of a
sustained program of government-guaranteed prices. In addition, the
programs of MIDA, BDA, and ItA / were broadened and geared toward
production and income-redistribution objectives.
Until 1975, agricultural research had been carried out by the
Ministry of Agricultural Development (MIDA), the University of Panama,
and various public and private institutions. Then the Agricultural
Research Institute of Panama (IDIAP) was created for the purpose of
consolidating research forces to effectively reach Panama's farmers;
research scientists from MIDA formed its nucleus.
A guideline of the institution was that of focusing research on
specific regions and crops for the development of technologies
appropriate to representative farmers in areas defined as high national
priorities. Research could thus be concentrated on the most important
SMinisterio de Desarrollo Agropecuario, Banco de Desarrollo
Agropecuario, and Instituto de Mercado Agropecuario.
farmer problems and the scarce resources of IDIAP used to best advantage.
Its activities were planned in a sequential pattern to permit
methodological adjustments as experience was gained and to provide a
framework for the training of a corps of national on-farm researchers.
In 1978, the first such program began in the area of Caisan with the
cooperation of CIT2YT and a former CIMrIYT trainee was assigned as
coordinator of the program. At the same time, the issues which would
shape IDIAP's institutional organization were being discussed and Caisan,
its first area-specific, on-farm project, was expected to be a source of
experience for the development of research procedures for IDIAP.
The Caisan program was planned and carried out strictly within the
limits of the human and financial resources normally available to IDIAP.
Thus, the cooperation of CI~MYT (development of procedures and
in-service training) was designed in such a way as to not exceed
normal resource allocation for area-specific programs.
Since the Caisan Program was designed to be one of learning by
doing, no detailed, predetermined methodology was specified for use in
the various research stages. Nevertheless, certain characteristics were
defined which conditioned the procedures to be followed. They were:
1. To be area specific with the purpose of increasing, in the short
run, productivity and income of representative farmers of Caisan.
2. To use a farming system perspective, focusing on priority crops and
concentrating on the most promising research opportunities
For rore detail see Martinez, Juan: Carlos, and Gustavo Sain,
"Evaluaci6n Econ6mica de los Programas por Area del IDIAP: El Caso
del Programa de Caisan". Documento Preliminar, CI TYT, Mexico,
Diciembre 1982, Section III.
in terms of their potential for increasing productivity and income
for target farmers.
3. To use on-farm research procedures including: a) surveys to
ascertain farmer circumstances and prevailing cropping patterns, and
b) on-farm experiments carried out on fields of representative
farmers and featuring major research opportunities identified
through the surveys.
II. THE CAISAN PROGRAM: PLANNING STAGE
In the following sections, the lessons learned in carrying out the
Caisan program will be described in terms of methodology used and
specific technologies developed for the farmers of the area.
Information Gathering at the Farmer Level
In order to understand the agroeconomic circumstances of farmers in
the Caisan area, available secondary information was analyzed as a first
step. The area includes about 10,000 hectares with some 300 farmers from
the communities of Fila Caisan, Caisan Arriba, Primavera, Caisan Centro,
Plaza Caisan, Alto la Mina, Bajo la Mina, Caisan Abajo, and Bajo
The agricultural zone is concentrated in the western part of Caisan,
where the land is flat or slightly hilly. The rest of the area has
irregular elevations and is used for perennial crops or for livestock.
The annual average rainfall is 4,000 mm, and the temperature ranges .from
180C in the dry season to 220C in the rainy season.
Byerlee, D., L. Harrington, and D. Winkelmann, "Farming Systems
Research: Issues in Research Strategy and Technology Design."
American Journal of Agricultural Economics 64 (5): 897-904, 1982.
The soil of the region is of relatively homogeneous fertility, being
of volcanic origin with a sandy texture and granular structure. It is
deep black soil, well drained and with a high organic content. The most
important crops are maize in the first cycle i(March to Septenber) and
beans in the second (October to January). These were to constitute the
target crops of the program.
Within the framework provided through secondary information, an
informal survey was made to get further information about the farmers of
the area, their prevailing production systems, and their most important
The exploratory survey led to a formal survey, more rigorously
focused on the production problems of the area. It was designed to
clarify certain aspects of prevailing production conditions which were
identified in the exploratory survey and would be of value for further
research. The informal survey took place in August, 1978, and the formal
survey in December of the same year.
The formal survey concentrated on maize in the first cycle within
the maize/bean rotation system. The survey sample was taken from a list
of farmers included in the 1970 National Census and updated during the
informal survey; a random sample of 52 farmers was selected for
The formal survey verified and, in some cases, quantified the
hypotheses formulated from the informal survey. Almost all of the farmers
produced maize (98%) and, of those, the majority rotated the crop with
beans on the same plot (70%). This confirmed the relative importance of
the target crops, maize in the first cycle and beans in the second.
It was found that beans were planted after the maize harvest and
after complete seed bed preparation. Therefore, within this cropping
system, the two crops presented a minimum of interaction.
Use of Survey Information to Plan Experimental Work
1. Definition of Recommendation Domains--With the results of the
questionnaire in hand, the first task was that of developing tentative
recommendation domains, groups of farmers whose agroeconomic
circumstances were sufficiently similar to permit the development of
recommendations valid for all members of the group. The first line of
differentiation was by location. Secondary information had shc~n that
Bajo Chiriqui had agroclimatic characteristics similar to the rest of the
zone, but that access roads into the area were often impassable, posing
serious market access difficulties. This led to the hypothesis that
farmer circumstances for Bajo Chiriqui (Recommendation Domain 1) were
different than those of the rest of the study area (Recomrendation Domain
This hypothesis was verified by the results of the survey which
showed that there were marked differences in the use of inputs by farmers
of the two areas (Table 1). Because of the differences, technologies
feasible for the two groups for the near future were different. Since the
Caisan research program staff worked with limited resources, efforts were
concentrated on Recorrnendation Domain 2.
TABLE 1. First Definition of Recommendation Domains: Comparison of
Maize Production Practices for Bajo Chiriqui and the Rest of
the Caisan Area, Maize, First Cycle
DOMAIN 1: DOMAIN 2:
TFXINOLOGICAL PRACTICE BAJO CHIRIQUI REST OF THE AREA
(percent of farmers using the practice)
Mechanized Land Preparation 0 74
Use of Herbicides 0 66
Use of Fertilizers 0 57
Use of Insecticides 0 20
Source: Caisan farm survey, December 1978
4/ Byerlee, Derek, Michael Collinson et al, "Planning Technologies
Appropriate to Farmers: Concepts and Procedures." CIMTIT, Mexico,
2. Research Opportunities-As mentioned earlier, experimentation must
be carried out in relation to the representative agroeconomic
circumstances of the recommendation domain(s), concentrating on the most
promising research opportunities in terms of potential increases in
productivity and farm income.
The information obtained from the farmers themselves, along with the
perceptions of the researchers, made possible the limiting of research
components to a minimum number for incorporation in the on-farm
experimental phase. Those technological components to be incorporated in
the first round of trials were determined as well as tentative ideas for
future research cycles to be verified during the first round of trials.
2.1 Technological Components for the First Cycle of On-Farm Experiments
Weed Control--Weeds constituted a major problem in Caisan maize
production. The natural fertility of the soil plus the anple rainfall led
to a high incidence of weeds in farmers' fields-a problem clearly
perceived by the farmers themselves and confirmed by the formal survey
(Table 2). Given the socioeconomic circumstances of representative
TABLE 2. Limiting Factors In Maize Production According to Farmers
GRADE OF INTENSITY
PROBLEMS SERIOUS NOT SERIOUS TOTAL REPORTS
No. Reports % No. Reports % No. %
Weeds 30 85.7 3 8.6 33 94.3
Lodging 27 77.1 6 17.1 33 94.3
Farm Labor 18 51.4 7 20.0 25 71.4
Erosion 11 31.4 10 28.6 21 60.0
Insects 10 28.6 9 25.7 19 54.3
SMachinery 14 40.0 2 5.7 16 45.7
Other 6 17.2 7 20.0 13 37.2
Source: Caisan fanr survey, December 1978
farmers, e.g., scarcity of farm labor and high labor cost, timely
weeding by hand was not feasible.
Caisan farmers, from the point of view of the weed problem, faced a
situation that may be defined as "transitional"--they were already
seeking methods other than hand weeding to improve overall weed control
and increase the productivity of the limited farm labor force. For that
reason, the majority were already using 2,4-D in applications of one
liter per hectare, 30 days after planting.
As a result of this situation, there was an opportunity for
developing, in the short term, alternative technologies in chemical weed
control for increasing maize production and labor productivity, with
clear economic benefits for the farmer. These alternatives were initially
centered around the use of a selective herbicide, atrazine, although
other chemical control possibilities were also analyzed.
Spatial Arranqement-Densitv--Almost all of the farmers used "mateado"
planting, irregularly spaced hand planting. The hills were spaced about
one meter apart, with four seeds per hill, thus giving a density of about
40,000 plants per hectare at seeding.
In this case, the research hypothesis was related to the weed
control problem. The irregular planting arrangement made chemical weed
control difficult and so program researchers proposed planting in rows.
It was also felt that adequate chemical weed control would permit a
greater plant density than that used by the farmer.
Fertilizer Requirements--As a result of the survey, the problent of
fertilizer use was seen to have several distinct facets:
1. From the production point of view, the farmer seemed to be familiar
with the use of chemical fertilizers; nevertheless, a large
percentage (42%) did not use any. Those who used fertilizers (58%)
applied it at a rate well below the recommended 400 lbs/ha of
10-30-10 or 12-24-12. The hypothesis of the researchers was that
response to fertilizer, if any, would not be substantial.
2. From the point of view of credit policy, the maize programs in the
area had emphasized two things, mechanization and fertilizer use.
While mechanization had been fully adopted by the farmers, the same
was not true of fertilizers. As the bank 'was experiencing a high
rate of repayment default in the area, it was important to clarify
the importance of fertilizer use in the Recommendation Domain,
especially as to whether, considering the farmers' practice (low
dosage), the rate of return associated with additional fertilizer
use would be greater than the opportunity cost of capital.
Lodging--The strong winds in the area, particularly during June and July,
represented an important risk in the production process. In the farmers'
eyes, lodging was one of the most important problems, second only to
weeds (Table 2). Table 3 shows the frequency of wind damage in the last
five years, and the months in which it occurred. Nearly 80% of the
reported cases of wind damage took place during June or July. The
frequency of damage was variable, although during the given period all
the farmers had suffered some damage on at least one occasion, the
magnitude of harvest losses depending on the size of the affected area
and also on the state of maturity of the maize at the time. Among the
elements that contributed to increased incidence of wind damage in the
zone was the excessive height (usually over 3.5 waters) of the maize
variety used by the farmers.
In spite of the fact that other shorter varieties had been tried in
the area (among them Tocurren 7428), they had not been accepted by the
farmers. According to reports they were not sufficiently resistant to the
excessive humidity characteristic of the area--the ears rotted and the
husks did not close well--and yield did not surpass that of the local
In view of the experience of the farmers with other varieties, it
was decided not to experiment with new varieties in the first stages of
T3JLE 3. Date and Frequency of Lodging
NUMBER OF YEARS IN WHICH TWIND DAMAGE HAD OCCURRED
IMONII IN TiE LAST FI E YEARS
1 2 3 4 5 Response Total
May 2 1 3
June 6 2 5 13
July 1 4 3 5 13
August 1 2 2 5
Total 10 5 5 12 2 34
Source: Caisan farm survey, December 1978
the work, but to design a modest program for the reduction of the plant
height of the local variety. From the survey, it was believed that, in
the short term, the increase in productivity and income from other
research components (such as weed control and plant density) would be
superior to that from the use of new varieties.
2.2 Technological Comp6nents Beyond the First Cycle-The foregoing
section has presented the prescreening of technological components for
inclusion in the first cycle of maize experiments. The idea was to
concentrate the research on a minimum number of new technological
components which could be managed by the researchers assigned to the
program and thus quickly result in feasible technological alternatives
for target farmers. By the very nature of the research strategy it is
clear that the selection of technological components did not exhaust all
of the problems of the area nor did it completely determine the future of
In particular, there was concern about erosion as reported by the
farmers (Table 2) and confirmed by direct observation; this together with
the lack of machinery and scarcity of farm labor led to the consideration
of future research on zero tillage as an alternative to the conventional
tillage presently practiced.
It was decided to postpone the incorporation of tillage practice as
an experimental variable until more information could be obtained to
permit the validation of hypotheses associating it with chemical weed
control. The technical aspects of the practice needed to be better
understood before becoming involved in the relatively rore complex
research issues associated with zero tillage.
Information generated at the planning stage had not fully clarified
the nature and magnitude of the insect problem, particularly soil
insects. It was hoped that the first cycle of experiments would shed
additional light on this research issue for inclusion in future phases of
the research program.
Research Strateqy and Trial Management
Through the process described in the previous section, five
technological components were selected for inclusion in the initial
stages of experimentation:
1) Weed control
2) Spatial arrangement density
3) Nitrogen requirements
4) Phosphorus requirements
It was decided that the last component would be handled separately
from the others in a special maize improvement program to reduce plant
height. If successful, the effort would permit a reduction in the
production risks associated with lodging. Given the nature of plant
breeding, the payoffs from this effort would be in the intermediate term.
The remaining research components, all involving on-farm trials,
were organized into two groups according to the nature of the problem
being addressed, the time period in which research payoffs could be
expected, and the research priority assigned to the component.
The first group included the components weed control and spatial
arrangement-density which were expected to play a key role in the program
in terms of their potential for increasing productivity and income. Also,
the problems to be confronted in the two areas were strictly ones of
production; no limitations were anticipated in terms of policy or
availability of inputs. Research on the components was set for the near
term with results leading to recommendations expected after two cycles of
experimentation. The above considerations led to these two components
being signed first priority in the research program.
For the medium-term research horizon, and of second priority in the
initial research phase, were the components of nitrogen and phosphorous
requirements. Interest in those components was not restricted to the
area of production, but was also related to agricultural policy. Credit
programs in the region had traditionally emphasized the use of
fertilizers; nevertheless, even though the farmers were familiar with
fertilizers, almost half did not use them, and of those who did, amounts
less than those recommended were used. There was no evidence of
fertilizer response in the area, and the perception of the researchers
was that, given the natural fertility of the land, even if such a
response existed it might not be substantial. Therefore, the inclusion in
the research program of fertilizer treatments as experimental variables
was addressed more towards policy makers than farmers. This more complex
nature of the fertilizer problem (production/policy issues) decided the
medium-term horizon assigned to this group.
The grouping of the components was not merely taxonomic, but rather
had implications for the management of the experiments. The four
TABLE 4. Experimental Strategy and Trial Management: Prescreening of Technological
Components, Timing of Research, Purely Production Problems vs Production
Problems Associated with Agricultural Policy, Management of' Experimental and
EXPLORATORY TRIALS (24) LEVEL TRIALS
PRESCREENED COMPONENTS PROBLEM NATURE TIMING OF .
RESEARCH COMPONENS RE OF N E ONENTS RANGE OF NON-EXPERI-
INCLUDED EXPERIMENT MENTAL VA- INCLUDED MENTAL VA-
VARIABLES RIABLES. RIABLES.
PLANT DEtSITY AND
1 ~ ______________________
E) LODGING BREEDING MEDIUM
Source: Caisan program, maize, first cycle
FP + HI
PROGRAM TO REDUCE PLANT HEIGHT OF LOCAL VARIETY
(FP--farmer practice; HI--improved practice in weed control DI--improved practice in
Check levels on experimental variables in all trials = FP
technological components were incorporated as experimental variables in
uniform trials of an exploratory nature, with the main effects and
interactions studied through a factorial arrangement 24, in relation to
the farmers' practice. The exploratory experiments were complemented by
levels trials in which experiments were carried out on various types of
herbicides, amounts and times of application, and application rates for
nitrogen and phosphorus.
In the trials incorporating weed control and spatial
arrangement-density as experimental variables, the nature and levels of
non-experimental variables were set at the prevailing and representative
practices of area farmers. This allcmed the results of the trials to be
evaluated directly in terms of their potential impact for representative
farmers in the recommendation domain.
The fertilizer studies, oriented toward the medium term, were
handled "as if" the farmers were going to adopt the improved weed control
alternatives to be developed by the program. The researchers were
confident that this would occur because of the information available
through the initial surveys. Consequently, these variables were fixed at
improved levels; the check levels in the experimental variables were in
all cases the corresponding farmer practice.
III. FIRST CYCLE RESULTS AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS
The exploratory trials of 1978 attempted to analyze the agroeconomic
impact of the new technological components for representative farmers in
the recommendations domain, as well as to see the interactions among the
components. The exploratory analysis had a double purpose: 1) to verify
the hypotheses set at the planning stage of the program in the
identification of priority problems, and 2) to analyze the agroeconomic
feasibility of developing corresponding technological alternatives. In
other words, the hope was to identify the priority problems and, at the
same time, contribute information for their eventual solution.
Thus, six trials incorporating four of ithe five technological
components chosen as priorities for the first cycle of experiments were
carried out, utilizing an incompletely randomized block design with a
factorial arrangement of 2 and without replications. The criteria for
fixing the levels of experimental variables was that 1) farmer practice
was always used as one level, and 2) the other level was one that would
permit the detection of main effects and interactions should they exist.
The reasons for not replicating the trials in each locality were of
diverse nature: 1) in choosing between statistical vigor (more
replications per site) and a wider sampling within the recommendation
domain (more localities), the research team gave more weight to the
latter; 2) researchers felt that trial plot size requested of farmers
should be minimal in the initial stage of the Iresearch, when the farmers
were not acquainted with either the staff or the nature of the program;
3) research sites were carefully selected to fit characteristics of the
recommendation domain, presumably leading to less across-site variability
and allowing sites to be treated as replications once across-site
consistency was verified; and 4) the design-arrangement of the trials
contained "hidden" replications which permitted partial statistical
analysis per locality if necessary.
Of the trials, one was eliminated because. of unusual damage by
animals; of the remaining experiments, the lowest average yield was
obtained using present farmer practices (2.9 t/ha) while the greatest
yields were obtained when all alternatives to the farmers' practices were
included (6.1 t/ha). Table 5 shbws the results by location and the
average for the recommendation domain.
Table 5 also illustrates the potential impact of the factors
considered. On the one hand, there is marked yield advantage for the
alternative herbicide and planting distribution-density practices, with
the average yield advantage being 0.9 tons per hectare for each
component. On the other hand, the effect of chemical fertilizer use is
TABLE 5. Exploratory Trials: Main Effects by Location
MEANS OF AVERAGE YIELD
TREATMENTS AVERAGE YIELDS BY LOCATION FOR THE
I II III IV V FECOMMENDA-
(tons/ha, 14% humidity) TION DOMAIN
H 4.1 3.8 3.8 3.6 4.1 3.9
1 5.4 5.3 4.8 4.0 4.7 4.8
Main Effect 1.3 1.5 1.0 0.4 0.6 0.9
D 4.3 3.8 3.4 3.6 4.2 3.9
D 5.3 5.2 5.2 4.0 4.5 4.8
Main Effect 1.0 1.4 1.8 0.4 0.3 0.9
N 4.9 4.3 4.3 4.0 4.3 4.3
No 4.7 4.7 4.4 3.6 4.5 4.4
Main Effect -0.2 0.4 0.1 -0.4 0.2 0.1
P 4.7 4.7 4.2 3.7 4.0 4.3
P 4.9 4.4 4.5 3.9 4.7 4.5
Main Effect 0.2 -0.3 0.3 0.2 0.7 0.2
Source: Caisan trials, first cycle, 1979
(H--chemical weed control; D--spatial arrangement-density; N--nitrogen;
P-phosphorous; 1 improved practice; other practices)
practically nil, with positive and negative values around zero, depending
on the location. With this consistency in results obtained across
locations, a statistical analysis was carried out for the group of
experiments, treating the locations as repetitions. The results are
presented in Table 6.
One can clearly see the high significance obtained for the weed
control and planting distribution-density components. The interaction of
the two components was statistically significant at the 10% level which,
even if not conclusive, clearly indicates a research path to be
continued. Since each factor of the interaction is highly significant,
the agronomic explanation that stems from this relationship would seem to
be that more efficient weed control might eliminate weed competition
TABLE 6. Exploratory Trials: Combined
DEGREES OF SUM OF MEAN
SOURCE OF VARIATION FRrEED= SQUARES SQUARES F. CALC.
Repetitions 4 8.5531 2.1383 2.2688
'Blocks 5 2.4207 0.4841 0.5136
H 1 19.7011 20.9031*
D 1 19.5031 20.6930*
N 1 0.0211 0.0224
P 1 0.9901 1.0505
HID 1 2.8501 3.0240
HN 1 1.0811 1.1471
HP 1 0.0061 0.0065
DN 1 0.0781 0.0829
DP 1 0.0361 0.0383
NP 1 0.0001 0.0001
IrT 1 2.1451 2.2760
HDP 1 0.5611 0.5953
HNP 1 0.2101 0.2229
DNP 1 3.0031 3.1863
Error 56 52.7798 0.9424
TOTAL 79 113.9400
CV = 22%
Source: Casian trials, first cycle, 1979
* Significance 0.01
(H--chemical weed control,; D--spatial arrangement-density; N--nitrogen;
Anova for the Five Locations
for light, space, and perhaps nutrients, allowing a more densely planted
and better distributed planting alternative.
With respect to the nitrogen and phosphorous components, Table 5
showed that there was virtually no impact on yield. The statistical
analysis (Table 6) also indicates that there were no significant
differences in yield due to the use of those chemical nutrients. There is
an agronomic explanation for this fact, resulting from certain
characteristics of the recommendation domain. First, Caisan is a
relatively new maize production area with good soil structure and high
natural fertility. In addition, in the maize/bean rotation, the bean crop
probably contributes nitrogen to the maintainance of natural soil
fertility; there could also be a residual effect from the phosphorus
applied to the beans in the second cycle (around 10 kilos of N, 40 kilos
of P205, and 10 kilos of K20).
In analyzing the economic feasibility of the technological
alternatives incorporated in the exploratory trials, the agronomic impact
was used as the basis. In this manner, the components that showed
significant yield impacts and first order interactions (weed control and
spatial arrangement-density) were analyzed for their economic viability
as compared to the actual farmer practices in the recommendation domain.
Table 7 shows that the H1 and D1 alternatives presented an ample margin
of profitability, with marginal rates of return (MRR) of around 700%.
Based on the interactions detected in the agronomic and statistical
analyses of the components, the MRR of HUD1 suggests that the components
should be considered together.
Up to this point, the empirical evidence from the analysis of- the
first cycle of exploratory trials indicated, with an ample margin of
confidence, clear opportunities for the development of new technological
alternatives for chemical weed control and spatial arrangement-density.
For the rest of the variables considered in the exploratory trials,
(nitrogen and phosphorous), there were no significant differences in
TABLE 7. Economic Analysis of Exploratory Trials: Viability of
Alternative Technologies in Chemical Weed Control and Spacial
CONCEPT H D H D HI D H D
Adjusted Yield (-10%)
GROSS BENEFIT ($114/ton)**
VAPRABLE COSTS (VC)
369.36 430.92 430.92 564.30
15.23 23.05 31.57 39.39
Gesaprim ($7.19/2.5 kg)
Seeding Rate, kg/ha
NET BENEFIT (MB)
Increase in NB
Increase in VC
Marginal Pate of Return
354.13 407.87 399.35 524.91
Source: Caisan trials, first cycle, 1979
* Nitrogen and phosphorous requirements
differences between treatments and so
show no significant
were not included in the
** Field price of maize
yields. Without going through the economic analysis of the data, it can
be tentatively inferred from the agronomic responses that the farmers'
practice was the most reasonable technological alternative.
In short, the exploratory trials confirmed the original preliminary
identification of the problems facing farmers in the recommendation
domain and, at the same time, permitted the exploration of alternative
technologies that promised significant economic benefits for the farmer.
Complementing the information from the exploratory trials, the
levels experiments provided greater depth and detail about the behavior
of some of the experimental variables considered in the exploratory
experiments. For the first cycle, levels trials were carried out for: a)
types of herbicides and dosages, b) types of herbicides and application
timing, and c) levels of nitrogen and phosphorus.
Types of Herbicides and Dosage--Iwo herbicide by dosage trials were
planted using a complete randomized block design with four repetitions.
The variables considered were application dosages and combinations of
Gesaprim 80, Prowl, Alachor, and 2,4-D, including in the trials farmer
practice (2,4-D 30 days after planting). The results showed significant
differences for both locations (at the 1% significance level) between the
farmers' practice and the alternative chemical controls considered in the
experiments. The analysis by location showed that the farmer could
significantly increase his yields by using alternative methods of
chemical control. The combined analyses from the two locations show
significant differences in the treatments.
With these results, economic analyses were carried out for the
locations, both individually and combined. The Gesaprim 80 treatment,
/ Likewise, if we act "as if" the differences were significant and
complete the economic analysis, we will find that the increase in
yield far from compensates the costs incurred in the purchase and
application of the chemical nutrients under consideration.
using a 2 kg/ha application during the pre-emergence stage, was superior
to the other alternatives, with a marginal rate of return greater than
1250% at each location as well as in the combined analysis. This chemical
control alternative is the same as that used in the exploratory trials,
except that, in the latter case, the dosage was slightly higher (2.5
kg/ha). This application rate showed an equally high marginal rate of
Both groups of experimental trials (exploratory and levels) showed
consistent results for this experimental variable, both in the
qualitative (type of herbicide) and quantitative (dosage) aspects, and
confirmed the viability for the farmer of more efficient alternatives of
Types of Herbicides and Timing of Application--Two herbicide experiments
were conducted to compare alternative application timing patterns, using
a complete randomized block design with four repetitions. The
applications were made 0, 5, 10, 20, and 30 days after planting, and
Gesaprim 80 and 2,4-D (including the farmer's practice) were used as well
as a check treatment of no chemical control.
In both experiments, problems with lodging due to high winds
affected the accuracy of the results. The lodging problems occurred near
plant maturity and, consequently, the impact on average yield levels was
not great. Nevertheless, from the point of view of trial management, the
presence of lodged plants within the plots affected the accuracy of the
agronomic and yield data obtained from the trials.
With this qualification, significant differences were not found for
the different treatments, except when compared to the check treatment.
The information obtained from this group of experiments did not
contribute to the clarification of the issues involved as had been the
case in the preceding trials.
Levels of Nitrogen and Phosphorous--Two nitrogen by phosphorus levels
experiments were planned. The design utilized was the complete randomized
block with an incomplete factorial arrangement and three repetitions.
These included five levels of nitrogen and phosphorus (from 0 to 150
kg/ha) with a density of 37,500 plants per hectare. An additional
treatment was added which consisted of intermediate level applications
of nitrogen and phosphorus with a density of 50,000 plants per hectare.
The statistical analysis in both cases indicated that no significant
differences existed between treatments. In this group of experiments some
management problems were also experienced, e.g., insect attack and minor
animal damage. In spite of those problems, the consistency of the results
with those previously reported for the exploratory trials added support
to the original hypothesis that there were no significant differences in
yield due to the use of nitrogen or phosphorus.
Integrating Survey and Experimental Results
The methodology used in the program included, after each cycle, the
integration of the information from the surveys with the results of the
on-farm experiments. The data were reviewed, new hypotheses formulated,
and new lines of research charted, both for the on-farm research program
and for experiment station research. Where appropriate, recommendations
for farmers were made as well as those for agricultural policy.
The exploratory trials showed significant first order effects for
herbicides and spatial arrangement-density and, to a lesser degree,
interactions between those variables. The marginal rates of return' for
the research components, planting 50,000 plants/ha and using Gesaprim 80
at 2.5 kg/ha, were above 700%. This confirmed the hypothesis that clear
opportunities existed in these technological components for the
development of viable alternative technologies for representative farmers
to increase the productivity of the land and labor devoted to maize
The results of the levels trials on herbicides were qualitatively
(types of herbicides) and quantitatively (dosage of 2 kg/ha in this case)
consistent with the results of the exploratory trials. This, along with
the high economic margin of profitability for the various components, led
IDIAP to formulate recommendations for area fanners after only one cycle
The use of chemical fertilizers, in the exploratory trials as well
as in levels trials, gave a nonsignificant response confirming the
original hypothesis formulated in the planning stage--the use of nitrogen
and phosphorous, separately as well in combination, resulted in negative
marginal rates of return. These results remained the same even when
fertilizer was used with improved weed control and spatial
arrangement-density practices. This represented a challenge for
recommendations on the use of fertilizers, at least until the information
obtained in the first cycle could be confirmed in later cycles. It also
suggested that emphasis placed on fertilizer use in credit programs be
Finally, the results obtained using the local maize variety in the
first cycle of trials confirmed the hypothesized yield potential of the
For the future orientation of the research program, the results of
the first cycle, together with the diagnostic surveys done in the
planning stage, suggested the following lines of research for the second
1. Given that the hypothesis about the agroeconcmic impact of adequate
weed control seemed to be validated, and considering erosion
problems and the lack of machinery, it was decided to incorporate
the tillage system as an experimental variable in the next cycle.
This would entail analyzing the prevailing conventional tillage
system (mechanized) against an alternative of zero tillage with
chemical weed control.
2. Given the impact obtained fron the trials on herbicides and spatial
arrangement-density, and the interactions observed between the
components, the levels experiments for the next cycle would examine
the variables jointly (herbicides by density) in order to determine
more precisely the relationships between them and confirm optimum
3. Given the efficiency shown by the contact herbicide, Grarroxone, in
the control of prevalent weeds in the bean cycle and its relative
lower price, it would be incorporated into the program as a
complement and/or alternative to Gesaprim 80.
4. Given the impact that Gesaprim had in the first cycle, and the
prevalent maize/bean rotation system, it was decided to analyze the
residual effect that Gesaprim had on the bean crop, using a
factorial arrangement (dosage of Gesaprim per days after its
application in which beans are planted). In order to save tine and
reduce research costs, this factorial arrangement would be carried
out on the border rows of the herbicide by density trials. The
hypothesis was that high precipitation would eliminate any residual
effects on the beans.
5. Given the impact of spatial arrangement-density, plant population
would be more closely monitored in future experiments, particularly
during the first month of crop development.
6. Given the results of the fertilizer trials, plus the medium-term
horizon used for those variables, experiments would be carried- out
on continuous plots to analyze, in the longer term, the impact on
natural soil fertility of more intensive production practices in the
maize/bean crop rotation.
IV. BEYOND THE FIRST CYCLE: TECHNOLOGY VERIFICATION, TRANSFER, AND
Research results described in the previous section provide a solid
basis for the orientation of the Caisan research program in subsequent
cycles. Further, they provide empirical evidence of the utility of the
research methodology used by the program. Accordingly, the same research
strategy was followed for subsequent research cycles.
Most Important Implications of the Second and Third Cycle of Trials
The most important change in the second cycle of trials was the
inclusion of tillage systems as an experimental variable. The tillage
experimental variable was incorporated in the exploratory trials in place
of weed control, although the latter variable continued to be part of the
The hypothesis regarding zero tillage as an alternative to
conventional tillage was that it would be "cost saving" rather than
"yield increasing." In particular, researchers felt its use as an
alternative technology would have the following results:
1) Maintain basically the same yield levels.
2) Reduce the cost of tillage practices per hectare and,
consequently (if point one is verified), reduce average
3) Significantly reduce soil erosion, identified in the initial
planning phase as a problem by both farmers and researchers.
4) Relieve the small farmer of having to depend on contracted
mechanization service for land preparation.
5) Increase farmers' time flexibility' at planting by considerably
shortening the time required for land preparation.
6) Decrease the competence of weeds during the first weeks of
plant stand development, as a result of fewer days between land
preparation and planting.
With these hypotheses about zero tillage, four exploratory trials
were planted that included this variable along with spatial arrangement-
density and nitrogen and phosphorous requirements. The results of three
of the trials (one was lost due to heavy lodging) confirmed the results
of the previous cycle with respect to the last three variables. The new
experimental variable, the tillage system, showed statistically
significant differences (5%) in yield levels at only one of the harvested
locations. In that case, the main effect was positive, with higher yields
for zero tillage. In the other two locations, no significant differences
were encountered nor did across-site analysis show significant yield
differences. The results, therefore, were consistent with the research
hypothesis that zero tillage would not significantly affect yields.
With respect to the economic dimension, Table 8 shows partial
budgets for conventional tillage and zero tillage assuming that yield
would remain the same under both tillage systems. A comparison of the
costs associated with the two systems shows that zero tillage results in
a 44% reduction as compared to the conventional tillage system. This
reduction is only in terms of i-mediate savings, not taking into account
the implicit cost of erosion associated with conventional tillage, a cost
clearly apparent to representative farmers in the area.
In the levels trials, three herbicide by plant density and three
fertilizer trials were planted. The herbicide by density trials were
included to confirm the interactive effects observed for those variables
in the exploratory trials conducted during the first cycle. Also the
herbicide, Gramoxone (paraquat), was included in order to compare its
effectiveness with the previously used herbicide, Gesaprim 80.
Unfortunately, the loss of a considerable number of plots in the
levels trials due to heavy lodging made it impossible to carry out the
quantitative analysis, and only the field observations made during the
growing stages were available for use by the research team. (The lodging
occurred late and had little impact on yield. It did, however, make
measurement so difficult that there were doubts as to accuracy.) Those
observations indicated that both the preemergence applications of
TABLE 8. Exploratory Trials: Partial Budgets for Conventional and Zero
ACTIVITY AMOUNT UNIT COST VARIABLE COSTS
Conventional Tillage 45.00
Plcwing, 3 Passes 3 hrs, tractor 15.00 45.00
Zero Tillage 26.00
Chopping 2 days 4.00/day 8.00
Herbicide 1.8 liters 5.00/1 9.00
Labor, Herbicide 2 days 4.00/day 8.00
Rent, Backpack Sprayer 1 day 1.00/day 1.00
Source: Caisan trials, first cycle, 1980
Gesaprim and the postemergence applications of Gramoxone provided
effective weed control. The same effectiveness was not observed for
2,4-D, confirming the results obtained in the previous cycle. With
respect to the residual effects of Gesaprim on the subsequent bean crop,
the trials showed that after 90 days there was practically no residual
toxicity in the soil.
Once again, fertilizer trials showed no economic response,
reinforcing previous conclusions on those components. These results,
together with an increased flexibility in the credit program operating in
the area, may lead, in the near term, to a decrease in fertilizer use
with no effect on yields. In spite of the incidence of risk factors, risk
analysis was not needed because: 1) some of the alternatives were cost
saving and 2) the others implied only small additions to variable costs
but had high rankings in benefits.
6 Starting in 1980, the credit program for maize deemphasized
The above results had the following implications for the orientation
of the program in the third cycle of experiments:
1. Add the control of soil insects as an experimental variable in
the exploratory trials. The spatial arrangement-density
variable proved to be significant for yield potential in the
two previous cycles, and insect control would help assure
improved plant stand.
2. Maintain tillage systems and spatial arrangement-density as
experimental variables in the exploratory trials. The second
experimental variable is related to soil insect control and
demands more frequent counting of plant population during the
first month after planting to determine the effectiveness of
the insecticide control.
3. Maintain phosphorus requirements as an experimental variable in
the exploratory trials, but eliminate nitrogen.
4. Repeat the herbicide by plant density trials that were lost in
the previous cycle due to heavy lodging. Also, repeat the
experiments on residual toxicity to beans on the border rows of
5. Continue the medium-term fertility studies on continuous flat
land plots (slope less than 5%) and initiate fertilizer trials
on sloping lands (slope more than 5%).
6. For evaluating technological alternatives, conduct verification
trials (based on information obtained in the first two cycles)
combining tillage systems, spatial arrangement-density,. weed
control, and fertilizer use.
7. Enlist representative farmers to plant demonstration plots on
zero tillage, under the supervision of the research team but
with costs assumed by the farmers themselves.
With this basic orientation, experiments planted in the third cycle
included: five exploratory trials; four levels trials on herbicides by
density, which also tested residual toxicity to beans on the border rows;
three fertilizer experiments on continuous flat land plots, and two
experiments on sloping land; three verification trials, and three
demonstration plots on zero tillage.
There were adverse growing conditions throughout the area during
this cycle, with drought, insect attack (Agrothis sp., gallina ciega),
and heavy incidence of Helminthosporium spp.i These factors made the
analysis of trial results difficult. Among the experimental variables
included in the exploratory trials, insect control treatment using an
insecticide showed a strong marginal rate of return due to the heavy
incidence of insect attack. In other years, when insects are not as
prevalent, there might be little return to' insecticide application.
Consequently, insecticide use represents "insurance" for adequate plant
stand although the probability of insect attack has not been clearly
assessed. For the other variables, the analysis of exploratory and levels
trials verified the conclusions of previous cycles.
The three verification trials conducted during the third cycle
combined the best technological alternatives identified in the
exploratory and levels trials, and were designed to confirm their
agroeconomic viability for representative farmers. Consequently, the plot
size in the verification trials was larger than in the previous trials
and the farrrers had greater participation in their management.
In accordance with the results of the first two cycles of
experimentation, the verification trials included technological
alternatives on tillage systems, chemical weed control, spatial
For a detailed description of these results see Martinez, Juan
Carlos, and Jose Romain Arauz, "Innovaciones Institucionales en la
Investigaci6n Agricola Panaur~ea: El IDTAP en Caisan". Forthcoming.
arrangement-density, and fertilizer applications. In light of the fact
that the new herbicides were already displacing 2,4-D in the area, the
incorporated farmers' weed control practice was changed to that of
Gramoxone use. The rest of farmer practice was kept as defined at the
planning stage. The design of the three verification trials was as
1. Farmer Practice (FP)
a) Conventional tillage
b) Chemical weed control with Gramoxone: 1 It/ha 30 days after
c) Fertilization: 200 lbs of 10-30-10 at planting
d) 40,000 plants per ha, planting arrangement "mateado," hills
about one meter apart, four seeds per hill
2. Technological Alternative 1 (TA 1)
a) Zero tillage
b) Chemical weed control with Gesaprim 80: 2 kg/ha after planting
c) No fertilization
d) 50,000 plants per ha, planted in rows
3. Technological Alternative 2 (TA 2)
a) Zero tillage
b) Chemical weed control with Gesaprim 80: 2 kg/ha after planting
c) Fertilization: 200 lbs of 10-30-10
d) 50,000 plants per ha, planted in rows
According to previous research results, it was hypothesized that TAl
would successfully compete with FP in terms of decreased cost per ha,-but
only marginally in terms of yield. TA 2 implied greater costs per ha than
TA 1, due to fertilizer application, and increase in yield was not
expected to be significant.
The yields, variable costs, and net benefits associated with the
three production alternatives considered in the verification trials
planted at three locations are shown in Table 9. As can be seen from the
data, yields varied considerably across locations and were particularly
affected by the degree of disease incidence (Helininthosporium spp.) The
combined economic analysis indicates that TA 1 dominated the other
alternatives. When the trial results from Location 1 were removed from
the across-site analysis (it had the most serious disease incidence), TAl
showed even greater dominance. These results confirmed, therefore, that
the superiority of alternative TA 1 was basically due to decreased costs
per hectare (zero tillage, no fertilizer).
During the third cycle, three representative farmers in the area
agreed to grow their crop using zero tillage. These demonstrations, to be
fully valid, were to be totally managed by the cooperator with only some
technical advice from the research team. The cooperating farmers paid
for the majority of the production inputs and assumed production risks;
IIAP paid a portion of the herbicide cost. The research team maintained
informal contact with the cooperators throughout the growing season,
particularly during zero tillage practices, in order to monitor their
reactions to the use of the new technology.
The size of the demonstration plots varied between one and two
hectares. The type of zero tillage practices followed for each
demonstration plot varied slightly according to previous land management
(animal grazing or not) and the level of weeds encountered. Only in
Location 1 was it necessary to clear weeds and stubble from the previous
growing cycle before herbicide application. In Location 2 farm animals
had grazed the land after the previous beani crop harvest. The amount of
Gramoxone used for the demonstrations varied between 1 and 2 lt/ha. In
consequence, the cost of zero tillage varied between $19.25 and $26.50
per hectare, with the average being lower than the $26/ha cost estimated
during the analysis of the 1980 exploratory trials (Table 8).
8/ The level of farmer interest in the new technological alternative is
sho~ n by the fact that soTre cocperators tested the technology on
their on without any technical assistance from the research team .
TABLE 9. Economic Analysis of Verification Trials
FP TA 1 TA 2
1 (heavy disease)
2 (light disease)
3 (light disease)
FP (3 tractor passes)
Chopping, 2 days
Gramoxone (1.5 It/ha)
Labor (herb. app., 2 days)
Rent, Backpack Sprayer
Seeding Rate, kg/ha
Gramoxone (1 It/ha)
Gesaprim (2 kg/ha)
200 Ibs 10-30-10
Labor, 2 days
126.70 65.60 129.50
Source: Caisan trials, first
Field price of maize
Farmer Response: Adoption of Recommended Practices
Evidence from CIIMYT technology adoption studies shows that, when
technological recommendations are not adopted by farmers, it is usually
because at least some component in the recommendation is not consistent
with the circumstances of the farmers to whcm the technology is
directed. 9/ The Caisan research program was guided by the principle that
the best guarantee for the adoption of recommended technologies was to
assure that farrer circumstances were taken into account from the
outset, leading to recommendations which were appropriate to those
The relationship between the researchers and representative farmers
was central to the research paradigm of the Caisan project. This
interaction began with the survey sequence, and continued through the
on-farm experiments and the monitoring of the adoption of the
recommendations derived from the program. Thus, the research process
began and ended with the farmer.
The technology transfer process followed in the project involved
farmer field days at experiment and demonstration sites to discuss the
alternative technologies involved. With these elements, and the degree of
communication which existed between farmers in the area, their
response exceeded initial expectations. Furtherrmore, farmers themselves
played an active role in the process of technology generation. For
example, cooperating farmers modified the Gramoxone container so that it
could be used as an applicator in -the field. Similar farmer-originated
adaptations occurred in zero tillage. Some farmers (particularly larger
landholders) found it difficult to find the labor required by the manual
chopping of old stands, the initial step of the zero tillage alternative.
In consultation with the research team, they used a light harrowing pass
instead of hand chopping to cut back the weeds and crops residues, thus
arriving at a minimum tillage system.
Given the response of representative farrrers to the technological
alternatives developed through the research project, IDIAP decided, after
only three cycles of research activity, to conduct an evaluation of the
9/ Perrin, R.K., and D.L. VWikelmann, "Inpediients to Technical
Progress on Small versus Large Farms," American Journal of
Agricultural Economics, 58:5, 1976.
The farn-rs were organized in three "Juntas Agrarias," mainly for
buying inputs and obtaining credit.
TABLE 10. Adoption Survey: Levels of Recomrended Technologies
TECHNOLOGICAL ALTERNATIVES FARMERS MAIZE AREA
Appropriate Weed Control 61.4 60.9
Planting in Rcrs/Higher Density 70.5 62.7
No Fertilizer Used 79.5 79.5
Zero or Mininum Tillage 43.5 23.0
Source: Caisan survey, first cycle, 1982
project, including the assessment of the social rate of return for its
investment in the program. The evaluation focused on two basic
aspects: 1) the impact on area farmers of the adoption of recommendations
formulated by the program, and 2) the methodological and institutional
spillovers of the program to other regions of the country.
The evaluation included an adoption survey related to the
technologies generated by the project. Table 10 illustrates the level of
adoption by 1982 for four of the components. Through contrast with data
from the original 1978 survey, the patterns of adoption over time were
also derived. 2/ The difference in the percentage of farmers
adopting minimum or zero tillage (43%), and its percentage of cultivated
area (23%), reflects the fact that small landholders had the least
difficulty in adopting the practice. This was probably because they
relied on hand labor, and the adoption of minimum or zero tillage
practices was appropriate to their circumstances. In contrast, those
farmers with larger holdings had more difficulty in switching to minimum
11/ Martinez, Juan Carlos, and Gustavo Sain,"Evaluaci6n Econ6mica de los
Programs de Investigaci6n en Fincas del IDIAP: El Caso de Caisan",
CIMMYT and IDIAP, 1982.
12/ Ibid., Section IV.
or zero tillage because labor constraints were more serious for them, and
a mechanized zero. tillage alternative was not yet available.
(Subsequently, IDIAP purchased mechanized zero/minirmm. tillage equipment
for examination in the project area starting in 1983.)
The high rate of adoption of recommended practices among Caisan
farmers, particularly considering that the research project had only been
in operation for four years (three cycles), stands as testimony to the
validity of the research methodology which led in such a short time to
the development of appropriate technology for target farmers--the final
judges of the usefulness of production-oriented research.
V. CONCLUSIONS: COST EFFICIENCY AND IMPLICATION OF THE CAISAN PROGRAM
Within national agricultural research programs there has been
considerable progress during the last five years in the relative
importance of on-farm research activities and the operational development
of of methodologies for its implementation.' As this process evolves,
methodological and technological problems are resolved and new ones take
their place, among them that of the institutionalization of on-farm
research within national research structures. The starting point for this
institutionalization process has been the experience arising from the
ongoing on-farm research programs, programs which have usually been
managed in the initial stage by ad-hoc technical groups from within the
research structure. From CIMiMYT's perspective, the process builds from
the bottom up--from basic methodological ideas to on-farm research
experiences to the institutionalization of these activities within the
national program. In other words, it goes from on-farm research actions
to an articulated on-farm research program.
IDIAP and Caisan illustrate this process. The institutional strategy
of IDIAP provided the framework for the development of Caisan. The
progress of the program and the methodological experiences arising from
it were closely followed by the national directing staff and intensively
discussed by researchers and directing staff in national meetings, field
days, and regional workshops.
In this way, the Caisan program reinforced the initial orientation
of IDIAP towards site-specific, on-farm research. Also, in the
methodological dimension, it provided concrete experiences, not only in
terms of what to do in on-farm research (surveys, experiments, etc.) but,
more important, how to do it, i.e., the informal survey leading to a
well-focused formal questionnaire, the prescreening of best-bet
technological components based on the assessment of farmer circumstances,
and the management of experimental and nonexperimental variables within
The program has provided solid evidence of the validity of the
research procedures used. Farmer response, in terms of adoption of
resulting technologies, is proof of the degree to which program
recommendations fitted their circumstances. IAso, the speed at which
adoption took place is a clear indication that the research opportunities
incorporated in the program were in fact important production problems
for representative area farmers.
The best indicator of the cost efficiency of the methodology
utilized is the social rate of return on the investment required to
implement the program; the evaluation carried out in 1982 provided this
information. / In fewer than four years, even assuming no further
adoption after 1982, the social returns (basically accruing to area
farmers) were much greater that the amount invested by IDIAP. The rate of
return, using the most conservative figures, was 188 percent, clearly
exceeding the opportunity cost of capital. When less conservative
assumptions were made, the rate of return rose to 332 percent. These
results, together with experiences of other countries, -- reaffirm that
the approach used was efficient for reaching target farmers with
appropriate technologies in the near term.
While the Caisan program was being carried out, IDIAP was going
through a systematic planning effort which resulted in an organization of
its activities into Programs (Agriculture and Livestock), Subprograms
(crops groupings--for 'example, basic grains) and Comnodity Research
Projects. While these were -the groupings at the national level, they were
cut across by the Regional Research Programs whose basic operational unit
was the area-specific, on-farm research project. The central
management was organized with a Director General, a Deputy Director
General and National Directors for Agricultural Research, Livestock
Production Research, Planning, Transfer of Technology, Administration and
The area-specific, on-farm research activities have gone through
considerable expansion since 1978 when the Caisan program was begun with
only two national researchers. At present they include five priority
areas in agriculture, involving the work of 24 national researchers, and
three priority areas in livestock with 21 researchers.
While this growth leaves no doubt as to the importance given to such
activities by IDIAP, it also brings to the surface a set of pressing
issues on the institutionalization of on-farm research which demand the
attention of IDIAP central management. For this reason, a workshop for
IDIAP directing staff was organized, with the cooperation of CII MYT, for
an intensive discussion of the issues (organizational, managerial, and
SFor example see Ecgardo Moscardi et al, "Creating an On-Farm
Research Program in Ecuador. The Case of IMIAP's Production Research
Program." CIT.iYT Economics Program Working Paper, January 1983.
S"Plan Anual de Trabajo 1982", IDTAP, Panama, May 1982.
technical) arising from the field experiences in on-farm research.
While the discussions were centered around Caisan, other experiences from
IDIAP and INIAP, Ecuador were considered as well. The moving from on-farm
research actions to an articulated on-farm research program had presented
many difficulties, some of which were intensively discussed through the
workshop. Institutional adjustments may follow pending an internal "self
evaluation" meeting of IDIAP to be held in the near future.
From these experiences, several points. emerge for consideration for
the consolidation of efficient on-farm research operations within IDIAP.
On the methodological front, it would seem that the diagnostic phase
should concentrate on those areas important for the experimental phase.
Also, research should begin with prevailing farming systems, trying to
develop, for target crops within those systems, simple technological
alternatives rather than complete packages on complete alternative
systems for the farmer. This responds to the near-term time preference
prevalent in the political and institutional environment of IDIAP, i.e.,
results arrived at in three years are preferred to those taking ten
Also, there is a need for the assimilation by new staff members who
have joined IDIAP of the methodologies used for on-farm research as those
activities have expanded. This has multiplied the in-service training
demands to a point where they can no longer be satisfied by the
training provided in international centers; it brings about the need for
alternative mechanisms for in-country training.
Closely related to the previous point, as the ad-hoc on-farm
research technical groups are institutionalized, covering more areas and
involving more personnel, the problem of the management of on-farm
research activities becomes more complex. Among other things, it requires
17/ Managing the Institutionalization of On-Farm Research within IDIAP.
A Workshop for Directing Staff. IDIAP-CIMMYT, Volcan, Chiriqui,
Panama, February 23-25, 1983.
greater technical supervision of. new area 'programs, in order to
capitalize on the methodological experiences from the earlier ones. This
suggests a sequential type of development of these activities, in which
efforts are concentrated initially in few areas with a "built in"
mechanism of on-the- job training which permit a progressive extension of
the work to new areas. In this process, the more-experiences
practitioners will become supervisors. Accordingly, training should be
addressed to those practitioners with the potential of becoming
Also, a national on-farm research program demands a decentralized
style of management to provide the logistic and financial support
required by increased off-station field operations. IDIAP has already
moved in that direction, decentralizing management to three regional
research centers which are being organized and equipped. This
decentralization will have implications for financial management, for
example, field researchers may have access to a rotative fund for a more
autonomous and time efficient coverage of operational costs.
Finally, from an organizational point of view, close links are
required between area-specific, on-farm research and national crop
research and extension activities. The formulation of farmer
recommendations (often agronomic in nature) is the responsibility of the
area specific on-farm research teams. The role of extension in this
process should be clearly defined since more results will be forthcoming
from the ongoing research operations. In the case of Panama, this will
involve the National Directorate of Technology Transfer of IDIAP, as well
as MIDA's extension network. / Ideally, extensionists should
participate in the planning phase of the research, and then have an
increasing responsibility as new technological alternatives are generated
in the experimental phase. At least, extensionists should assume clear
responsibilities in the technology verification and demonstration stages,
with assistance and eventual training from the on-farm researchers. Under
this arrangement extensionists would work closely with farmers, and would
18n s s ae a d t /
Extension services are a direct program activity of MIDA.
become completely familiar with the technological alternatives developed
and tested. In our view, this type of linkage (integration) is essential
for an effective transfer of improved technological alternatives to
The strategy of IDIAP has been to emphasize on-farm research in the
initial stages of institutional development. The relative importance of
station research has, accordingly, decreased as more human and financial
resources have been allocated to off-station work. As on-farm research
activities prove to be successful, in term of impacts in productivity
and income of target farmers, IDIAP may find itself in a position to
attract more political attention and financial support for expanding its
experimental station research programs. This strengthening of station-
based research is an important element for generating a continuous flow
of improved technological components. As the central management of
IDIAP moves to resolve these issues, the institution will come closer to
realizing its full potential for benefiting Panamenian farmers and the
society as a whole.