Farmer research creates more benefits than just increased crop production

Farmers have been innovators and experimenters for millennia. They developed new types of crops and methods of farming.  A few decades ago, farmers and agronomic researchers began working together more closely. This "on-farm research" allows farmers a chance to work side-by-side with researchers. Collaborations like this allow for the testing of new agriculture products and methods in real-world conditions.

Laura Thompson and her team were interested to determine what motivated farmers to participate in on-farm research. So, their group at the University of Nebraska interviewed the 140 farmer-researchers in their network. The results, recently published in Agronomy Journal, can help future collaborations improve processes - and perhaps increase the number of farmers involved.

"Part of the goal was that we'd be able to document these experiences and motivations," says Thompson. "The hope is that it will provide some guidance to others who are looking to start these programs."

Farmers may propose the research question. That was one of the motivators for participating. "We found that frequently their motivation was they wanted to find answers to a specific question," says Thompson.

Research topics focus directly on what's relevant to farmer-production questions. One example might be to compare the effects of two different fertilizers on crop production.

But, choosing the research question is often not solely the idea of the farmer or university educator. "We found that it was not so black and white usually," says Thompson. "Choosing research projects was really collaborative." Regardless of who came up with the question, the farmer's overall satisfaction with the program was not affected.


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