Title Page
 On-farm research: A central point...
 A conceptual model

Group Title: Role of on-farm research in technology generation
Title: The role of on-farm research in technology generation
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00071949/00001
 Material Information
Title: The role of on-farm research in technology generation
Physical Description: 1 v. (various pagings) : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Waugh, Robert K
Publication Date: 1982
Subject: Agriculture -- Research -- Guatemala   ( lcsh )
Agriculture -- Research -- United States   ( lcsh )
Agricultural extension work   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Guatemala
Statement of Responsibility: by Robert K. Waugh..
General Note: Typescript.
Funding: Electronic resources created as part of a prototype UF Institutional Repository and Faculty Papers project by the University of Florida.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00071949
Volume ID: VID00001
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 - 74813134

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
    On-farm research: A central point in a technological system
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
    A conceptual model
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
Full Text
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Gainesville, Florida 32611

JUNE 1982

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Robert K. Waugh



Technology for agriculture in Latin America, and in many other

areas of the world, can be considered as in its third phase, and without

much doubt is now entering a fourth.

The first phase was pre-World War II. It consisted principally of

the establishment of some experiment stations and educational and train-

ing programs. The introduction of technology for commercial export

crops by international corporations began in this first phase. I have

called this the introductory phase of technology.

Following World War II, a second phase was implemented based upon

the premise that the success of the United States in applying technology

for increasing food production could be repeated in developing countries

through extension systems which would inform the farmer. I have called

this the transfer phase.

When the transfer strategy did not give the desired (nor expected)

results (Rice, 1974), a third phase was initiated in which applied

research and institution building was emphasized. Applied and adaptive

research was given attention, especially in plant improvement, agronomic

practices and livestock management. Cadres of nationals were trained

and organized into national programs supported through foreign and

national agencies of government. The activities were not only national;

regional and international organizations were developed. This third

phase has had some successes. Total food production in the developing

countries has recently been increasing more rapidly than in the undev-

eloped (Barr, 1981; Waugh, 1980). But food production per capital has

not been rising as rapidly in the developing countries as in the devel-

oped; large segments of the world population are passed by and have not

benefitted very much from technology.

It is evident that research in the developing countries is entering

a fourth phase which I am calling client oriented, because it is char-

acterized by its focus upon a specific clientele, with emphasis upon the

small and limited resource farmer. Much of the research under the new

focus is conducted on-farm; cultural and economic aspects are given

consideration along with the biological in the orientation of research

and the transfer of results. The farmer becomes a participant client.

While it is recognized that agriculture cannot be a solution to all

of the rural problems, both production oriented researchers and develop-

ment agencies have become increasingly interested in the new approach;

they believe that research can make additional contributions to rural


This new focus is frequently referred to as Farming Systems Research

(FSR), especially in the United States. The approach is relatively new;

it is in an evolutionary stage of development; there is still consider-

able divergence of opinion about FSR. But among its proponents there is

consensus that on-farm research is an important part of it. There is

also consensus that transfer, in some manner, must be an integrated part

of the farm focused technological system. There is no doubt that but

the on-farm research has a strong transfer effect, but this effect of

the research has limited coverage if not linked to a mass transfer

system. ICTA, in Guatemala, is one of the examples where an entire

institute has focused upon the farm by direct linkage between commodity

and discipline research and the on-farm research,<, nICTA is now working

to develop linkages with the extension service(Waugh and Villeda, 1981),

largely through joint participation between ICTA and DIGESA in the

supervision of farmer managed tests in the evaluation phase of on-farm

research. Honduras has been working toward a similar relationship

between research and extension (Secretarla de Recursos Naturales,

Honduras, 1981: Waugh, 1981). The University of Florida has initiated

a Farming Systems Research and Extension project in North Florida.


Research and extension have both been criticized for having traits

that reduce their effectiveness in meeting development objectives. Most

of us accept that there is some basis of truth in the criticism, es-

pecially for certain conditions such as those of the small, limited

resource farmer. Also most of us will agree that on-farm research when

used 1) to integrate production components into farmers' production

systems, 2) for evaluation of production systems under farming condit-

ions, and 3) for its direct contributions to the generation of tech-

nology, can go a long way in correcting the traits that have been criti-

cized. Furthermore we agree that on-farm research, conducted in a

manner that not only studies the biological systems used in farming, but

also farming as an agro-socioeconomic system can further improve the

effectiveness of research.

But on-farm research can do even more for the improvement of agri-

cultural research because it allows us to establish a system with a

continuum of sequential. activities from the generation of technology to

its use by farmers in their producing systems.

On-farm research can become a central point for developing a tech-

nological system to serve farmers which can open up new possibilities for

improving the effectiveness of research from several points of view:

1. On-farm research can serve as a focal activity for on-going

research and extension and the improvement of both.

Lack of coordination and collaboration between research and exten-

sion has long been pointed out as a weak link in connecting technology

generation with transfer and application. The report of Rice (1974)

strongly indicates that a transfer system independent from research may

have very little impact. Evenson (1978) points out that technology

search isolated from organized research is subject to exhaustion.

2. On-farm research makes reductive research more purposeful and

also serves as a basis for evaluating the output from discipline and

commodity research.

Research is criticized for being too reductive. I can see no good

substitute methodology for the reductive nature of some research because

the biological systems which operate in farming are too complex and the

conditions too variable to be understood using holistic methodology.

However on-farm research can function to integrate the results from

commodity and discipline research and evaluate them under a holistic


3. What is learned through on-farm research can serve as a basis

for the orientation of reductive commodity and discipline research and

the selection of priorities.

Research is often accused of being focused upon the lesser im-

portant aspects of farming while more important ones are neglected.

4. On-farm research can make research more plausbile to decision

makers of government.

Research almost never is well understood by decisions makers or the

political forces that occur within government.

5. On-farm research can furnish information, and can introduce

checks and balances (evaluations) that can improve management.

Management of agricultural research is often considered weak and


6. On-farm research can be a hands-on experience to improve the

effectiveness and the image of researchers and extensionists.

Researchers are viewed as inhabitants of ivory towers who do not

understand the reality of farming. Extensionists are frequently accused

of knowing very little about new technologies--and making recipe recom-


7. A new dimension can be added to biological research and make it

more effective.

Traditional research conducts on-farm (perhaps off-station would be

a better term) research. However on-farm research under a systems

approach takes on a quality different from the on-farm (off-stat'on)

regional yield trials, for example, conducted traditionally. In the

latter trials the biological system under study, such as a new variety,

is exposed to a wider ecological range than is found on the experiment

station, but several of the non-experimental variables such as plant

population, soil nutrients, weeds etc. are usually controlled. These

kinds of trials are important for selecting among advanced breeding

lines and the farm oriented approach must continue to use this kind of

trial. But it goes further by also evaluating the biological system

when the non-experiemental variables, including management, are allowed

to fluctuate within a range that might be expected under the farmers'

conditions of production. The traditional system gives as estimate of

what would happen if farmers were to control variables as the researcher

does. It furnishes an estimate of potential when the experimental

conditions are met by the farmer. On-farm research can give an estimate

of results if farmers were to use the new variety. While both of these

estimates are important to farmers, planners and researchers, the second

is frequently (usually) missing.

These are examples of where on-farm research, conducted under the

systems mode, can contribute to many aspects of overall research activ-


What I conclude is that on-farm research needs to be brought into a

research and extension system--a system that is organized, coordinated

and directed--a system that permits identification of objectives and

goals--a system that identifies progressive steps toward the goals so

that progress can be evaluated--a system that can be managed with the

objective of improving the effectiveness of technology and the ef-

ficienty of its generation and transfer.

With the objective of bringing on-farm research into an organized

and institutionalized system it must be given more order: objectives,

methodologies and design. For commodity and discipline research this

has been accomplished over a period of time. We have a good start with

on-farm research but it still needs further definition.


Figure 1 is a conceptual model of the farming systems approach to

the generation of agricultural technology and its transfer to (adoption

by) producers. No one (single) model can fit all situations, and almost

certainly will not satisfy everyone, especially since this approach is

new, and in a dynamic stage of development. Also there is always the

problem of the application of the model; in the present occasion we will

not all visualize its function, in exactly the same way. The important

thing at this time is to come as close together as possible in our

thinking about how such a system would operate, in order to focus upon

the job at hand of outlining some applications of design and analysis to

on-farm experimentation that would be carried out with a system of farm

focused research.

The system: Who

The system visualizes that the principal groups that would be

active in a farm focused research and extension system would be:

1. Commodity and discipline researchers

2. On-farm area research and extension teams

3. Extension agents

Figure 1




Farming area activities (farms and farmers)






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4. Farmers

The system also visualizes some overlap in the activities of these


The system: What and How

The phases of work to be carried out within the system can be

conceptualized as follows (what);

1. Management and planning

2. Characterization and analysis of farming areas agro-

socioeconomic information gathering

3. Component and discipline research

4. Integration of components into farming systems and study of


5. Evaluation of technology and initial transfer

6. Mass transfer and production

These concepts can be built into a sequential, cyclical, iterative

and overlapping system of work (how).

Management and planning. Management and planning are usually

recognized as necessary for the operation of institutions but not con-

sidered directly as part of the technological system itself They

should be an integral part of farm focused research and extension and

not simply the means through which research and extension are institu-


The essential quality of management is responsibility,,, This re-

sponsibility can be considered under three areas: 1) policy, 2)

operations (how the organization functions) and 3) technical direction !("dc i o / "

Management is elusive; it is both the persons) doing the supervising

and the act of supervision. There is top management, but responsib-

ilities are delegated and these responsilibilities must be felt at all

levels because top management alone cannot implement a farm oriented

technological system. This must be done through heads of units or

groups because many of the attributes of the system can only be incor-

porated into functional programs and managed through individuals, each

of whom is responsible for a segment of the overall activities, and is

one of the major reasons why there must be an organized system.

Planning is closely related to technical guidance and direction but

is not limited to strictly technical matters. It also pertains to re-

sources and their distribution. Planning then, is projection of the

work plans and estimations of the resources necessary to carry out the

work plan. It must be done before the work is carried out. It is the

future tense of the who, what, how and where.

On-farm research is dynamic. It is sequential, cyclical, iterative

and overlapping. The work must be planned ahead of time, and the needs

anticipated, in order to bring together the group inputs and institu-

tional resources into coordinated action.

Characterization and analysis of farming areas; agro-socioeconomic

information gathering. One of the major needs of on-farm research, as

an integrated part of a farm focused system is the comprehension of the

biological, cultural and economic aspects of farms and farming within

the target area. The need is not limited to an overall picture of the

area at one instant of time to serve as an initial orientation for the

research, but also for continual updating so that comprehension will

continue to improve. This way the best possible information is used in

developing the successive steps of the research and extension process.

The characterization and analysis of farming areas and the gathering of

agro-socioeconomic information is a two phase process: 1) the initial

phase in which existing documented information, results from the rapid

reconnaissance (sondeo); survey and any previous research results are

used to plan the initial thrust, and 2) a continuing phase in which

information is updated and made more complete. This new information can

come from the experience of the on-farm team members in the area,

special studies and surveys, farm cropping records, and current re-

search. A frequent misconception of farming systems research is that it

consists of the initial characterization. What is important, of course,

is the subsequent generation of relevant technology. Characterization

of selected target areas as an action independent of the system will

contribute very little.

Component research. Component research contributes to the in-

dividual production factors such as variety, weed control, pest control,

plant nutrients etc. Commodity and discipline research are therefore

largely component research. Some component research is conducted on-

farm. In Figure 1 this is indicated by an extension of the component

research frame into the farming area.

Integration of components into farming systems and study of alter-

natives. Some integration of components into farming systems may be

done off-farm (on-station) but most will be conducted by the on-farm

research team. The integration of components may result in the

synthesis of new systems of production; some may be simple modification

of what is already commonly used. Thus alternatives may be presented to

farmers through the study of integration of components, but also alter-

natives initially may be introduced through "exploratory" trials. Most

of the experiments in this phase would be classified as "exploratory"

and "site specific agro-technical trials".

Evaluation of the technology and initial transfer. These trials

are of two principal kinds: (a) researcher or extensionist managed and

(b) farmer managed with researcher or extensionist supervision. In the

first case the trials would be "regional agro-technical" or "regional


In the components integration phase, trials are designed mainly for

evaluation of biological materials or biological systems. Several non-

experimental variables are controlled. In the researcher evaluation of

components within the farmer's production system non-experimental

variables are allowed to fluctuate within a range that might be normally

expected when used by farmers.

In "farmer managed tests" new technology is subjected to more

variation including the variations from the farmers' management.

Both of these types of trials have an initial transfer effect.

Farmers collabroate in conducting researcher managed trials and are

introduced to the technology. The farmer managed trial is a self demon-

stration and is further exposure of farmers to the technology. It is

used also as a basis of evaluation by the farmer.

Mass transfer and production. The previous steps are not designed

for effecting mass transfer of technology; there are indications that

the evaluation phase is highly effective as a transfer mechanism but

only reaches a relatively small number of farmers. However, since the

farmer's test does show promise for transfer as well as for evaluation,

there is some basis to believe that the use of the self-demonstration

might be extended through groups and other mass transfer methodologies.

The System: Where. This system is designed to function on both

the experiment station and on private farms but the on-farm part is

given considerable emphasis and becomes a key part of the system.

The on-farm part is designed to operate in specific and defined

regions. Thus it is assumed that there would need be only one each of

the commodity and discipline programs for a large area such as for the

entire country, and these programs would work with several defined areas

or regions.


Agricultural technology in the developing countries is probably now

entering a new, client oriented phase. Some experience has been gained

with this new focus which promises to be more effective than the trad-

itional approach, especially in support of small and limited resource

farmers. There is considerable interest on the part of production

oriented researchers and development agencies in this new approach.

On-farm research is now recognized as an important part of this new

focus. Here it is suggested that on-farm research can be effective not

only in integrating results from commodity and discipline research in

generating new technologies, and in the evaluation of new technologies

under realistic farming conditions, but can also make contributions to

the improvement of research as a figurative bridge between traditional

research and extension through the development of a more effective

technological system for the support of rural development.

In order that on-farm research, in this new context, can further

improve the technological system of research and extension it needs to

be understood, and methodologies developed. A conceptualized system has

been presented for the purpose of developing further insight into the

role that it might play. It is understood that no one single model will

serve under all situations, but it hoped that the one presented will

serve to help us advance our understanding of the methodologies and the

experimental designs that might be employed.


1. Rice, E. B., 1974. Extension in the Andes. Cambridge: MIT Press.

2. Barr, T. N., 1981. The World Food Situation and Global Grain Pro-

spects. Science, Vol. 214, 1087-1095.

3. Waugh, R. K., 1980. La Investigacion Agricola en elArea de In-

fluencia del PCCMA y Su Proyeccion Hacia el Futuro. Invitational

paper, Reunion Annual del PCCMCA, Guatemala.
r y -A- 1 t1- 'y 4

4: Waugh, R. K., and B. Vflleda, 1981. Ocho Anos del ICTA. Man-

uscript in Spanish, about the Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnologia


5. Secretaria de Recursos Naturales. 1981. Fucionamiento del Pro-

grama Nacional de Investigacion Agropecuaria y Su Integracion en un

Sistema Tecnologico. Program Nacional de Investigacion Agro-

pecuaria, Secretaria de Recursos Naturales, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

"6. Waugh, R. K. 1981. Structuring a Technological Linkage Between

Agricultural Research and Extension. Manuscript.

7. Memorandum K. R Tefertiller to C 0 Andrew, J. T. Woeste and F.

A. Wood, December 30, 1980. University of Florida, Gainesville.

Z8. Evenson, R. E 1978. The Organization of Research to Improve Crops

and Animals in Low-Income Countries. In Distortions of Agri-

cultural Incentives. Theodore M Schultz editor. Indiana Univ-

ersity Press, 223-245.


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