Farming systems research and technology for small farms : discussion

Material Information

Farming systems research and technology for small farms : discussion
Hildebrand, Peter E.
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
Food and Resource Economics Department, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida,
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
5 leaves ; 28 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural extension work.
Farms, Small -- Research
Agriculture -- Technology transfer
Spatial Coverage:
North America -- United States of America.


General Note:
"Prepared for presentation in the invited paper session on 'International Agricultural Development' at the 1982 AAEA-WAEA meetings at Logan, Utah, August 1-3."
General Note:
Includes bibliographical references (leaf 5).

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
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The University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries respect the intellectual property rights of others and do not claim any copyright interest in this item. This item may be protected by copyright but is made available here under a claim of fair use (17 U.S.C. §107) for non-profit research and educational purposes. Users of this work have responsibility for determining copyright status prior to reusing, publishing or reproducing this item for purposes other than what is allowed by fair use or other copyright exemptions. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder. The Smathers Libraries would like to learn more about this item and invite individuals or organizations to contact Digital Services ( with any additional information they can provide.
Resource Identifier:
155838981 ( OCLC )

Full Text


Peter E. Hildebrand

Prepared for presentation in the Invited Paper Session on "International
Agricultural Development" at the 1982 AAEA-WAEA meetings at Logan,
Utah, August 1-3

Food and Resource Economics Department
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida

Peter E. Hildebrand
Byerlee, Harrington and Winkelmann state that the highest

expectations of the Farming Systems approach are in its problem solv-

ing role which aims to increase productivity of farming systems by

generating new technologies appropriate to farmers. They argue that

because of the chronic shortage of resources in national agricultural

institutions and because of the urgent need to help small farmers

increase their productivity, cost effective methods that provide quick

results are critical. I concur that this is how Farming SystemResearch

should be viewed.

But Farming Systems should be more than part of a 'Uynamic research

system" if it is to achieve anticipated results. It must be part of a

complete "technological system for agriculture" which includes a mass

transfer mechanism. Fortunately, the very nature of the approach lends

itself to merging research and extension because of the heavy emphasis

given to on-farm evaluation in which large numbers of farmers are exposed

to technologies in the testing stage and in which extension agents can

participate. For that reason, FSR is not an appropriate name for the

approach and for over two years it has been called Farming Systems

Research and Extension (FSR/E) at the University of Florida.

Peter E. Hildebrand, Professor of Food and Resource Economics, is

Coordinator of the Farming Systems Research and Extension (FSR/E)

Program, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of

Florida. Florida Agri. Exp. Stations Journal Series No. 3996.

To ignore the extension component is a shortcoming of any approach

aimed at reaching the small farmer and of the Byerlee, Harrington,

Winklemann paper.

Practitioners of the FSR/E approach accept the small, limited

resource family farmer as the most important client for the reasons

stated in the paper. To the authors' description of the characteristics

of this clientele should be added that small farmers are frequently

forced into enterprise diversification. Diversification means less

management time foreach enterprise, making it very difficult for the small,

family farmer with limited resources to adopt complex technology that

requires a lengthy learning process to achieve expected results. The

challenge for the FSR/E practitioner is to produce a technology that

is low cost, utilizes primarily resources available on the farm, and

does not require a great deal of learning time or management. Few over-

night panaceas meet these criteria. Therefore, as the authors correctly

state, it is necessary to search for technologies that can be adopted

in a step by step procedure where each step provides the farmer enough

incentive to adopt it.

It is a fearsome challenge to generate and test, with a cost

effective method, technology that quickly reaches and is readily adopted

by. a target group heretofore difficult to help. To meet this challenge

requires expert, dedicated scientists from a number of fields who are

willing to use all their talents and imagination in the task. FSR/E

must be able to count on agro-biological, social and economic scientists

who can and will work together in a close-knit team. Team members must

share the responsibilities of understanding the client, selecting

problem areas to be attacked, designing test procedures, evaluating

test results, updating information through close association with the

client and promoting acceptable and proven technology.

Agro-biological scientists, whose business it is to produce

agricultural technology, are key people in FSR/E. But traditional

agro-biological research procedures tend to produce technologies that

small farmers have not adopted in large numbers. Agricultural economists

and social scientists are necessary components of the approach to com-

pliment agro-biological scientists. The observational and analytic

skills of. anthropologists and production or marketing economists,

for example, augment the training of agro-biological scientists in

the search for biological and non-biological constraints to increasing

production. When integrated into the FSR/E approach in this manner,

agro-biological research becomes better oriented toward location-

specific problems and more cost effective in reaching identified


In order to promote team work, scientists from such diverse back-

grounds and training must inevitably make some compromises. Each must

be willing to share responsibilities for orienting, designing and evalu-

ating research with scientists from other disciplines. The agronomist

must modify his desire to repeat an experiment with many replications

over two or more years before he will make a conclusion. An agricultural

economist must avoid large, complex models requiring more computer ca-

pacity than usually available and assumptions that are not applicable

anyway. The anthropologist must forget about isolating himself with his

subjects for several years so he can completely comprehend their envi-


ronment. Yet the specific individuals skills of all these scientists

are essential for the success of the FSR/E approach to technology gen-

eration and promotion.

Herein lies a problem not addressed by the authors. How are the

professional contributions of the individuals on an FSR/E team evaluated

for purposes of promotion and salary? Traditional evaluation procedures

for researchers dictate the production of a number of articles published

in refereed journals while numbers of meetings and popular publications

are criteria for extension personnel, Neither meetings nor publications

is the primary objective of the FSR/E approach, Publications can and

do result, but because agronomic work is not repeated two or more years

under highly controlled conditions, there are no complex models and

there is not time for in-depth observation in a stable environment, the

relevant journals often view with suspicion the legitimacy of the product

and are not eager to publish it.

FSR/E is client-oriented, problem-solving research is

essentially applied research (Andrew and Hildebrand), Applied research

requires all the talents necessary in basic research but places many

more contraints on the researcher, For this reason, applied research

is frequently more of a challenge than basic research and can also

serve as a mechanism to orient the basic researcher. In the FSR/E

approach, a partnership is formed between the basic and the applied

researcher, The holistic research efforts of applied researchers iden,

tify problems to challenge the basic researchers to solve through

component research. Tentative solutions are then tested on a much broader



and more realistic basis than the basic researcher usually enjoys. In

this manner, basic researchers are incorporated into a technological

system for agriculture which increases the efficiency and effectiveness

of their efforts.

Following the first year of an FSR/E project in north Florida

(Hildebrand), two examples of a spin-off from applied to basic research

can be cited. A, new wheat variety (Florida 301) was developed for the

area, but the effect of grazing on yield was unknown. Yet this was the

first question the farmers asked. Perennial peanuts (forage producers)

had been studied for many years, but there was no known cost effective

method for establishing them on farmers' fields. Both of these problems

have now been incorporated into basic research programs. Surely the

FSR/E agronomists, economists and anthropologists who identified the

problems and are helping solve them deserve as much recognition as

those basic researchers who developed the original materials, but did

not deliver them in a form ready to use.


Andrew, C. 0. and P. E. Hildebrand. Planning and Conducting Applied

Research. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1982.

Hildebrand, P. E. "Role, Potential and Problems of Farming Systems

Research and Extension: Developing Countries vs United States".

Proceedings, 1981 Farming Systems Symposium, Kansas State University,

April, 1982.