Lawrence and Joe,
My question was how to integrate the *research*
not the systems.
The research, institutional or otherwise other than
on-farm done by the farmer (and I can attest to the
efficacy of doing that)...
I agree with you about the absolute necessity of on-farm research
(organic or conventional). This does not only mean handing off a new
technology to the farmer. Often researchers rent land and have the
farmer prepare it. Then the researcher does the planting. This way
one can ensure good experimental design and put in a large number of
On-farm research requires good design. If the improvement in the
variety or practice is astounding and revolutionary, this is not so
important. But most changes in technology result in only small
improvements. Without good design and measurement, incremental
improvement cannot be detected with any confidence.
...is nowhere near as important as just going out
and farming organically or better yet sustainably...
If *new* knowledge (or varieties) are to be produced, on farm testing
alone is not enough. The reason is that there are too many new,
undeveloped ideas and too many potential new varieties. They have to
be developed and prescreened somehow before on-farm trialing.
For example, if I am developing new seed treatments, it is *possible*
to dream them up and go directly to small plots on-farm. But we dream
up a lot of crazy stuff, and it is usually more efficient to prescreen
in the lab or greenhouse. Ideas are a dime-a-dozen, and the vast
majority don't work. Research in farmers fields is more expensive than
the lab, and if the less promising ideas are discarded early, more
resources can be devoted to testing the promising ideas.
The same can be said about populations of potential new varieties.
These are produced en-masse in a breeding nursery, and tested locally
(usually in one's own nursery) before multilocation testing on farms.
Breeding is always a numbers game, but you can't go to (most) farmers
with 1000 new varieties to test.
My view is that it is the best strategy to fund organic
independently, to conduct its research in independently
of conventional chemical agriculture
Given that everything must be validated on-farm, I agree that new
technology for the organic system should be tested on organic farms.
However, that doesn't mean it can't be done by the same people. I can
collaborate with, or rent space from an organic farmer just as well as
from a conventional farmer.
I am not promoting organic apartheid...
When your view is "it is the best strategy to fund organic
independently, to conduct its research independently" Isn't the effect
a kind of apartheid?
...only that organic requires a nurturing environment...
All research requires a nurturing environment.
...that will not be provided by conventional chemical
If the scientist is any good, he/she will provide the appropriate
environment, either by developing it themselves or collaborating with a
Anyway, I am not talking primarily about chemical companies. The
public ag research infrastructure is stretched thin right now.
Proposing whole new blocks of infrastructure is simply a no-go. Won't
To meet the needs of organic farmers, we need to get their problems
onto the radar screen of the existing institutions, and encourage
experienced scientists to work on these problems. This is happening in
the public and private sectors.
The answer is for people who care about the environment and the future
of agriculture to pull together, not splinter into competing
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