Addressing Florida's emerging farm problems through farming systems research and extension /

Material Information

Addressing Florida's emerging farm problems through farming systems research and extension /
University of Florida -- Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
5 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural systems -- Florida ( lcsh )
Agricultural extension work -- Florida ( lcsh )
Farming systems ( jstor )
Farmers ( jstor )
Agriculture ( jstor )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


General Note:
"January 2, 1980."
General Note:
At head of title: White paper.
Statement of Responsibility:
prepared by IFAS international faculty in cooperation with the Center for Tropical Agriculture.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
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:
611095642 ( OCLC )
S451.F6 A33 1980 ( lcc )


This item has the following downloads:

Full Text
Attachent A
UN0.'-ITY CF L..Or

S-- ,' : ..... -;. ... January 3, 1980 .. 3O" -. '- :

TO: Drs K. R Tfortril ler, J. T. W!oeste, F. A. Wood, D. 0. Spiniks, C, D. Edmond

F.,OM: Hugh Popehce /t /j

Attached is a copy of a white paper concerning farming systems research
and e'xtnsion. This paper represents the combined tliir:king over more than
one year of an extensive group of IFAS and UF faculty withi- domestic and' inter-
national responsibi cities. Several visiting professors and lecturers have
worked with the group. This core of faculty can serve as a base to begin some
of the uork suggested by Dean Wood and participants in the recent, qui L
successful, small i arm meeting organized by Clarence Edmond.

As a general sumr.'ary-of thinking about how Florida might capture experience
from international work with s:all farmers to address the States' concerns for
this client group as well as for low energy systems, a farming systems research
and extension approach could be very effective. Dr. Peter ; ildebrand's leader-
ship, coupled with interest and experience presently within IFAS, further
a:mplifies the base for such work. To this end the attached w white paper might'
be included among the summary statements from the recent. Sm ll Fari: Mieeting.


cc: Department Chairmen
Center Directors
Small Farm Workgroup

White Paper




prepared by:

IFAS International faculty in cooperation
with the Center for Tropical Agriculture

January 2, 1980



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 situation is becoming more and more
critical. Increasing public interest in environmental quality and energy
conservation adds a further dimension to these new problems facing agricul-
ture, as does mounting concern over the plight of the small or limited
resource farmer.

This white paper indicates how a method known as Farming 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 Panama. 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 consutmes 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 homo-
geneous farming systems. These groups of homogeneous farming systems serve as
the basis for FSR/E. Farming Systems Research and Extension is an integrated,
multidisciplinary team approach to understanding 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, maize production or swine farming or even maize fertilization
or swine 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 1 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 joinLly-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 determined 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 applica-
tion 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. Second, by concentrating a team effort on
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 allows promotion to begin early
in the technology development process.

The FSR/E approach creates an environment in which unique or exotic, yet
appropriate and highly acceptable solutions to farm problems can be spawned.
Participation 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 procedures.

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,
howi 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

Cicnralizc d :h
I Problem .i

I t/

,s,-I MultidiJsciplinary .
Research Coordinat inat
i,\, Commit. l: tee -i7


SContributing Disciplinary Conmponent Disciplinary o,

ii Co-auv thored

/ Cross Referenced '"
"*'-- I-L-- */ .. .^,-\- -(l^ --^-^-a.t-----s,-

(if any) (if any)i

Scarce -.for Search for
Irous Sr Areas
of Applicitbility ---, f Applicability

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

. Area Specific -"-
Probl em


M/ ultidisciplinory \
*' FSR/E Team

The FSR/E Multidisciplinary Team Approach to Research and

Figure 2.



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 the departments or disciplines 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
Nematology, 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 concen-
trating in this methodological approach. International projects with FSR/E
activities would facilTtate 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 core 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 is 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 capabilities and location 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 establish a strong program with due

April 30, 1980

Excerpts from: Future International Program Involvement of the Food and
Resource Economics Department

Departmental Programs Contributing to IFAS

International Programs

C. New International/Domestic Research and Teaching Program

Farming Systems Research and Extension (FSR/E)

The Food and Resource Economics Department is playing a lead role in

the establishment of an FSR/E Program in the University involving many dif-

ferent departments and comprising several components. Included in the pro-

gram will be:

A. Domestic FSR/E Program

This program will consist of one or more operating FSR/E teams

in Research Centers of the University working on problems of small

farmers and on the emerging problems related to energy, water and

other scarce resource use on larger commercial farms as well.

B. International FSR/E Center located at Gainesville involving:

1. A supporting research and graduate training component'with

a limited number of FSR/E courses and other suggested core

courses for students wishing to specialize in FSR/E methods, but

who maintain departmental and disciplinary identification.

2. Short courses for the training of U.S. and foreign adminis-

trative and program planning personnel in the techniques and

use of FSR/E.

3. Consultancy services involving University of Florida faculty

with experience in Farming Systems to assist i) agricultural re-

search institutions at the national, regional and international

level establish and improve FSR/E type programs; and ii) govern-

Attachment B

ment departments, funding agencies and project authorities

in utilizing FSR/E as part of project identification, de-

sign, monitoring and evaluation activities.

C. International Projects Involving:

A. Operational FSR/E projects in several countries utilizing

faculty and graduate students and in support of local as well

as regional or international research and extension institu-

tions and including a participant training component.

B. A network of courses related to FSR/E taught in several

locations throughout Latin America and Africa either as short

courses or for graduate or undergraduate credit. These

courses would be taught in collaboration with other institu-

tions and in the language of the country in which they are


Support Needed for Planned Work in International
Programs Over the Next Two Years

Research Program

A. Farming Systems Research and Extension (FSR/E) Program

Support of the FSR/E Program over the next two years will require several

faculty positions plus assistantships, career service, equipment and supplies.

Because the FSR/E Program is multidisciplinary, this support will be spread

over several departments. Immediate needs are for two line faculty positions

in FRED (both starting approximately in June, 1981) and one in Veg. Crops,

four other full time faculty positions to complete the complement of five

needed for a FSR/E team in one of the Regional Research Centers of the Uni-

versity, at least one assistantship for each of the five departments most ac-

tively participating in the FSR/E program (though not necessarily proportioned


in the same way), two career service positions (one for the Research Center

team and one for the Program in Gainesville), additional office space and

appropriate supplies.