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Face to face communication is infrequently and not very effective, because of differences in culture, interests and background knowledge. Besides, mostly there is a rather long period between the call for information by the government, and the delivery of information by scientists. In that period the political and economic situation may have changed considerably. For example, due to the economic crises Ireland has recently rediscovered the importance of agriculture for the national economy due to its impact on exports and national balance of payments. Utilization of the knowledge delivered by scientists can also be poor because political or policy (not scientific) arguments play an important role. These uncertainties in the use of outputs by governments, or absence of feedback, stimulate scientists to focus on scientific journals. Besides the number of published scientific papers and citation-indexes are important parameters in the selection of project proposals submitted in response to the tendering process for such projects by government. This stimulates the scientist to regard the scientific paper as the most important objective of his work.
Scientists working in applied research organizations and in research departments of commercial companies have the shared experience that there is intensive personal communication between researcher and the user of research results, for instance farmer advisory services, farmers unions and farmers cooperatives. They are production orientated and talk more and write less. People employed by these organization mostly stay within the organisation for their entire working lives, are very
Nitrogen Workshop 2012
skilled and highly motivated. Applied research scientists are familiar with culture and knowledge needs of their stakeholders and are often strongly involved in implementing new knowledge, for instance via presentations to farmers or via on-farm demonstrations such as pilot farms. Often the activities of the stakeholder and scientist overlap. In general discovering how existing knowledge can contribute to the development of a farming system is more relevant than making use of recent scientific publications. For these scientists it is difficult to publish in scientific journals, because mostly reviewers will conclude ‘nothing new’ from a synthesis of existing knowledge and its testing at farm scale. Their outputs are reports, articles in farmers magazines and oral presentations for an audience of stakeholders. A good example of the impact of applied research on the profitability of agriculture is the reduction of the use of purchased mineral nitrogen in the past decade in the dairy regions of Europe. Stimulated by the Nitrate Directive and the rising costs of fertiliser N relative to the farm-gate price received for milk, national governments and farmers had to increase the effectiveness of fertilisation. As a result of applied research recommendations on fertilization were revised with better integration of the use of organic manures, better accounting of N mineralised from soil organic matter, better distribution of fertilisers during the growing season, closer matching of fertilisation to expected grassland utilisation (grazing or cutting) and N-fixation by clovers. Programs were developed to implement improvements on farms. Experimental farms and pilot commercial farms played an important role in knowledge transfer by demonstrating new ways of working and providing opportunities to farmers to gain trust by discussion with other (pilot) farmers, farm advisors and scientists. As a result the mineral fertilizer N use on farms declined with no significant loss of yield. In Ireland the decline was about 30%, in the Netherlands about 50%, which has had an enormous effect on farm profitability. On a Dutch dairy farm annual savings are about €7,500. Traditionally, this production orientated job is typically executed by people with family roots in agriculture. The number of scientists with such a background is declining. Besides, it needs a number of rather ‘non-productive’ years to learn to do this integrating job appropriately. Nowadays, mostly scientists have to be productive immediately; there is no time allowed to gain experience. In that case it is much more attractive to focus on detailed research with a scientific paper as output. This is in contrast with the increased need of whole system research because farming is more and more complex and multifunctional (production of food, quality of environment, animal welfare). Besides, farmers are overwhelmed with sometimes contrasting information and need reliable and unbiased sources of information to make their decisions.
5. Increasing the cost-effectiveness of research by better communication We should make a distinction between research that is aimed solely at increasing knowledge and that which aims at application. The most problematic aspects of the first, with the scientific journal as main stakeholder, are to avoid duplication, to guarantee quality and to exclude fraud. Therefore more attention has to be spent on the quality of review. It should be a paid part of the job of excellent scientists and include oral communication between the authors and reviewers in the review process.
Effectiveness of research to be used by government can be increased by a more intensive communication between government employees and scientists to achieve a better focus on the required knowledge and more effective knowledge implementation. On both sides people should be trained for this job. Part of the training should be to learn about the culture (including vocabulary), activities and topics of the organisation. By workshops and other meetings cooperation can grow and become fruitful. For support in implementing regulations the French government orders its
Nitrogen Workshop 2012
research organisations to write a thematic ‘Expertise Scientifique Collective’. Recently the study ‘Les flux d’azote liés aux élevages’ was finished, describing all aspects of N in livestock farming, including influences on environment. Relevant information and knowledge was brought together by a team of about 25 national and international experts and was integrated, reported and finally discussed with people from government and farmers unions. It provides a basis for formulating the 5th Action Plan as implementation of the Nitrate Directive and for optimisation of livestock farming.
‘Expertise Scientifique Collective’ has proven to be a very effective way of utilising knowledge and in identifying knowledge gaps and therefore this communication method is recommended to other governments.
For supplying farmers with adequate information we need production oriented scientists that are familiar with the farming system, including culture of farmers. These scientists are more or less the intermediaries between more specialized scientist and farmers and their advisors. We have to identify persons that have the ability to do that job, give them the time and opportunities to be a successful communicator and make clear to scientific society that success should not only be estimated by the numbers of produced papers or the citation index. Success should also be measured in terms of impact of the agricultural industry. Experimental and pilot farms play an important role in knowledge transfer, because they act as a platform where communication between science and farming practice is most effective. Since 2003 national networks of experimental farms and pilot farms were very successful brought into an European network in the INTERREG projects Green Dairy (2003-2007) and DAIRYMAN (2009-2013). These projects include visits of farmers, farm advisors and applied scientists to their colleagues in other countries, exchange of tools already regionally in use by farmers, cooperation in testing of innovations emerging from research and meetings with people from government and other stakeholders of the rural area to discuss developments. Such networks are also very useful for education and training. Therefore such a European network of experimental farms, pilot farms and agriculture related organisations (research and advisory institutes, industry, government, schools) should be made permanent.
6. Conclusions The functioning of agricultural systems has to be improved in a way that food production per unit area increases, because we expect that world population will grow while agricultural area declines.
Besides, the limited availability of energy, water and fertilizers requests a more efficient utilisation of these resources. So more knowledge is needed at a time when research budgets are being cut in most countries because of the economic crisis. As a consequence research output needs to be more effective, which means more exploitable output per unit of investment. This requires all stakeholders working more effectively together; and the starting point is improved communication.
In the course of time verbal conversation has been replaced by paper-based or electronic communication. Nowadays, most scientists don’t have personal contact with their stakeholders, and therefore they are not very familiar with their needs and capabilities of research output usage, what limits the effectiveness of their work. To improve effectiveness verbal conversation should be reintroduced in the communication process.
Nitrogen Workshop 2012 Extension and knowledge transfer; effective partnerships for timely impact Ketterings, Qa and Czymmek, Kb a Nutrient Management Spear Program and PRODAIRY, b Department of Animal Science, Cornell University, Ithaca NY 14853 Abstract In recent years, the term “adaptive management” has become integrated in government programs in the United States (US). Adaptive management is described as “a process of developing improved management practices for efficient production and resource conservation by use of participatory learning through continuous systematic assessment”, by the NEERA1002 Coordinating Committee on Adaptive Nutrient Management. Such developments reflect recognition by government agencies of the need for (1) effective extension and knowledge development and transfer; (2) a partnership-based process for timely and true impact at the farm, watershed and state levels; and (3) continuous improvement in managing agricultural systems to enhance environmental protection while remaining profitable. Various models existed for such knowledge development and transfer in the past, some effective, others less successful. In this presentation we will show the approach that led to a sharp reduction in statewide phosphorus balances for New York State and its dairy farms, and discuss extension and knowledge transfer models and partnerships that have been shown to be most effective.
The central question in the presentation is: how can we bridge the gap between ever-more-detailed and narrow research and the knowledge requirements and implementation capabilities of our stakeholders?
1.Background & Objectives Similar to experiences of Irish and other European farmers, farmers in the United States have gone through a period of unprecedented volatility in milk, meat, and crop prices as well as input costs such as fertilizer and concentrates. With these developments came the desire to better manage limited resources, reduce cost of production, and stabilize or increase output. Examples in New York State have shown that such fine-tuning of management is both possible and profitable. For example, Table Rock Farm, a dairy farm in western New York State was able to reduce its whole farm nutrient balance of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) by more than 50% (Figure 1) while milk production increased to 12835 kg milk per cow in 2010, 13% higher than the average milk production at the farm in 2005! What gave this farm the confidence to adopt narrow row corn practices, inject manure, plant cover crops, reduce fertilizer use, adopt zone tillage, and increase the percent homegrown forage in its dairy rations? Is this farm one of just a few farms that made such improvements? Or are there more farms? What can we learn from this farm’s story and can the approach be expanded to enable more farms to reduce their environmental footprint, stabilize production, and be profitable in light of volatile milk, meat and crop prices and input costs?
2. Results -Table Rock Farm Case Study In 2006, the crop management crew of Table Rock Farm, managing 850 milking cows in Castile, NY, approached Cornell University’s Nutrient Management Spear Program (NMPS;
http://nmsp.cals.cornell.edu) with a request for help with setting up on-farm research. The dairy farm was questioning its use of starter N fertilizer and wanted to evaluate if additional N was needed beyond their regular practices at the time to plant corn (Zea mays L.) with 34 kg N ha-1 and to use manure to meet the rest of the N needs of the crop. At that time, their whole farm N balance was high, 180 kg N ha-1 excess N (Figure 1), and the farm was interested to learn how to cut production costs as well. The farm implemented fully replicated strip trials, comparing a no-starter control versus 34 and 67 kg N haThese trials were continued for two years and in three different fields. The results of the studies showed corn could be planted with manure only (Table 2), saving the farm US$37 per ha in fertilizer costs alone, a total saving of about US$10k across the farm’s approximately 265 ha of corn, in addition to a saving of almost 9000 kg of N across the farm.
Nitrogen Workshop 2012 In years after these studies, the farm continued to evaluate its practices, confirming that manure injection was the right way to go after two years of comparisons of different application methods, and that 84 kL ha-1 of liquid manure was the target rate based on trials in 2010 and 2011. In addition to measuring yield, the farm evaluated silage quality, and environmental indicators such as soil testing and corn stalk nitrate tests were included to evaluate possible tradeoffs between yield and environmental protection (Ketterings et al., 2012). And, while whole farm balances were drastically reduced, milk production increased to 12835 kg milk per cow in 2010, from 11329 kg milk per cow in 2005 (Figure 1).
The farm manager, Willard DeGolyer, explained why he found it important to work with the university
on trials on his farm:
(1) Why do you participate in on-farm research projects?