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Addressing Florida's emerging farm problems through farming systems research and extension /
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00086001/00002
 Material Information
Title: Addressing Florida's emerging farm problems through farming systems research and extension /
Physical Description: 5 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: University of Florida -- Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Publication Date: 1980
Subjects / Keywords: Agricultural systems -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Agricultural extension work -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: prepared by IFAS international faculty in cooperation with the Center for Tropical Agriculture.
General Note: "January 2, 1980."
General Note: At head of title: White paper.
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 611095642
Classification: lcc - S451.F6 A33 1980
System ID: UF00086001:00002

Full Text


Worldwide, agriculture is facing new problems. The technology that produced

the remarkable productivity increases since the late 1930's and was created with

abundant and comparatively cheap energy is becoming less appropriate. As world

population increases at a record rate and natural resource availability declines

the pvrQem is becoming more and more critical. Increasing public interest- i-

such --ra -as environmental quality adds a further dimension to these new problems

facing agriculture, as does mounting concern over the plight of the small or

limited resource farm.

This white paper indicates how a method known as Farm Systems Research and

Extension (FSR/E) can help in the search for new technology. The method is

appropriate for domestic and international work and is of special importance for

diversified or limited resource farmers. Some elements of this new approach are

already used domestically in north Florida and internationally in Malawi, El Salvador,

Bolivia and Ecuador by IFAS faculty. The basic methodology presented here was

developed over the last 5 years in the Guatemalan Institute of Agricultural Science

and Technology (ICTA), and is being used in modified form in Honduras, Colombia and

Panrina. Similar approaches have also been developed and tested in Africa and Asia.


A farming system is the result of the manner in which each farmer produces

and markets or consumes crop and livestock products. It is the phenomenon that

results from each farmer's unique interpretation of the natural and socio-economic

environment in which he attempts to augment his family's utility, as influenced by

the resources available to him and those agronomic, economic, environmental, cultural

and social factors which to some degree affect his decisions. Each farm is a unique

"farming system". Yet similar farms can be grouped into homogeneous farming systems.

These groups of homogeneous farming systems serve as the basis for FSR/E. Farm Systems


Research and Extension is an integrated, multidisciplinary team approach to under-

standing specific farming systems and to use this understanding to develop and

promote improved and more appropriate agricultural technology for them.

Over the last few decades, most agricultural research and extension workers

have provided information to their clients based only on their own area of

expertise in, say, r~oe production or 4e farming or even fertilization or heg

parasites. This information, although valuable, tends to be isolated from and

static with respect to other problems, products and inputs and is no longer suitable

by itself to meet agriculture's new challenges. FSR/E, as a supplement to the

traditional component approach, can better provide integrated answers and is more

appropriate to many problems.

Figure I shows how the traditional multidisciplinary system of research has

functioned using two disciplines as an example. A coordinating committee focuses the

participants' attention on the general problem and approves each contributing project.

These contributing projects are mostly conducted independently but result in jointly-

authored or cross-referenced publications. Disciplinary or component technology is

passed to extension along disciplinary lines.

Figure 2 demonstrates the FSR/E approach. A multi-disciplinary team, working

as a unit, defines a specific problem in a dei4qiod area, and together develops a

single, integrated project to search for one or more solutions. Each member of the

team contributes from his own area of expertise, but the effort is joint and the

principle product is the technological solution applicable to the specific problem

identified. Supporting projects, publications and application to other geographical

areas are secondary to the major FSR/E thrust.

Several important characteristics contribute to the efficiency of the FSR/E

approach. First, as the identification of and solution to farm problems can

originate from a variety of fields, the wider the disciplinary representation on

the team, the greater the probability of defining real problems and of producing

technologies useful to the clients. Secondamp, by concentrating a team effort on

Research Coordinating


- )



Figure 1. The Traditional Approach to Coordinated Multidisciplinary
Research and Extension Activities

: FSR/E 'Project

(if any)

(if any)

Area Specific

or component
(if any)

Figure 2.

or component
(if any)

The FSR/E Multidisciplinary Team Approach to Research and
Extension I

specific problems, the time to application and adoption of new technology is

minimized. Third, farmers and extension workers are involved in the process

from the beginning. This reduces or eliminates the need to modify a new

technology to make it acceptable to specific conditions and allow promotion to

begin early in the technology development process.

"7 FSR/E | creates an environment in which unique or mw exotic, yet

appropriate and highly acceptable solutions to farm problems can be spawned. Participa-

tion in an FSR/E team can be complementary to other staff activity and can have

the by-product of generating additional research areas to study specific aspects

of the problem in more depth using traditional disciplinary procedure.

As recently developed, FSR/E involves the following sequence of events, all of

which involve the entire FSR/E team:

1. Select a group of farmers, homogeneous with respect to their farming

system based on regional, commodity or other considerations consistent

with state, national or institutional priorities.

2. Study the selected farming system to determine what the farmers do,

how they do it and why they do it that way. Interaction of the team

members will help define problems and develop possible solutions.

3. Design and conduct appropriate station experiments, farm trials or

other means of testing alternative solutions.

4. Establish a testing procedure whereby the clients evaluate the most

promising technologies or solutions.

5. Organize appropriate procedures to promote the most acceptable solution

or solutions.

6. Utilize a farm record system to study adoption and impact of suggested



This is an opportune time for the University to become involved in Farming

Systems Research and Extension activities. Most donor agencies are enthusiastic

about and placing high priority on this approach. Yet there is no university

with an FSR/E program that can serve as a source of training for domestic and

foreign staff and students. Developing a strong program here not only would attract

financing and participants, but also would be critical to helping Florida's farmers

solve their emerging problems.

The composition of multidisciplinary FSR/E teams depends on the nature of each

project. The following are some of thegepartments that have expressed interest

in an FSR/E approach to helping solve problems of Florida's farmers and which

could be involved in international efforts as well: Agronomy, Agricultural Engineering,

Animal Science, Anthropology, Entomology and Nemotology, Food and Resource Economics,

Forestry, Vegetable Crops and Preventive Veterinary Medicine. Others would probably

also be involved. An FSR/E group has been meeting frequently on campus and would

provide the disciplines required to initiate program activities.

An FSR/E program would have several facets. Basic would be one or more strong

projects in Florida. Counties with concentrations of limited resource farmers in

the Northwest have been suggested most frequently as an area of initial research and

extension emphasis. This activity would involve research and extension staff as well

as graduate students and is necessary to provide credibility to any claim in expertise

in FSR/E. A brief series of courses, most already being taught, would be identified

to serve as a core for students interested in concentrating in this methodological

approach. International projects with FSR/E activities would facilitate interchange

of faculty, methodologies and technologies between the domestic and international

components. Current and potential projects in Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Malawi
and Colombia as well as with various international centers would provide the cpre

of foreign program efforts. A proposed project for including Social and Economic

Criteria in Agricultural Research (SECAR) through USAID would also be incorporated '

into an FSR/E program at the University of Florida.

Operational requirements include a mechanism for freeing staff time as program

efforts are initiated. This would involve both an initial source of funds and

some modifications of ongoing projects. Sources of funds for graduate student

participation would also facilitate initial efforts. Part of long run funding

would logically come from core university funds, but abundant funding from outside
sources is foreseen as soon as a credible program iy' underway.


Not only is the time opportune for the University of Florida to initiate an

FSR/E program, but time is of the essence. Because of the great interest at

present by many donor agencies (chief among them USAID) on the FSR/E approach, it

will be but a short time before several U.S. universities (and possibly some foreign

universities) establish programs and begin to compete for funds and participants.

With the University of Florida's well known 6hi.s it has many advantages

in becoming a national and international leader in FSR/E, but these can be offset

by lack of sufficient initiative to i'rti4 t a strong program with due haste