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Getting research to users - a coordinated approach.

Science is built up with facts, as a house is with stones. But a science than a heap of stones is a house," said Jules Henri Poincare (1854-1912) writing in La Science et l'Hypothese in 1908.

Much research has been conducted during the past century to help farmers and ranchers make a profit and keep them in the business of growing our food. But in some cases, the individual research findings represented little more than single stones. What was needed, as Poincare wrote, was many stones that fit together to form a house.

A drop in farm income affects more than farmers. When farmers don't have money to spend, local business owners suffer financially; so do workers at tractor assembly plants in the Midwest, and so on.

Because many farmers and agricultural communities are finding it increasingly difficult to avoid financial trouble, a technology transfer team has been created to provide a complete information package to assist them in making the best possible farming and business decisions.

Cooperators include the Agricultural Research Service, Colorado State University's Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension, private accountants. bankers and other agricultural financiers, and Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado.

In the past, technology was generally presented to farmers in a piecemeal fashion. It was up to the farmers to fit the individual pieces together. So growers were often the first to discover how all the pieces interacted and to see the results and problems.

Now it is possible to get a total planning package that shows the effects of different and complex management decisions without expensive, and sometimes ruinous, trial-and-error farming.

"Looking at field station research data is one thing; applying the data to our particular farm is another. We need that intermediate step where we can see if new practices will really be feasible for us, from a production standpoint," says Gilbert Lindstrom, a diversified farmer from Sterling. Lindstrom is one of the original members of the TRIM (Technology Resource Integrated Management) team that transfers scientific knowledge for on-farm use.

TRIM aims to make the most profit for farmers while minimizing change to the surrounding environment--a truly sustainable approach to farming and ranching.

TRIM deals with every aspect of agricultural production--from securing bank loans for operating capital to marketing finished products in a global economy. The computer models under development are expected to be easy to use, so farmers will be able to run various scenarios themselves.

"We have 8 farmers now working with 30 team members in the project. We'll add more farmers and members as we gain more knowledge," says James R. Welsh, director of ARS' Natural Resources Research Center in Fort Collins, Colorado. Welsh is the leader in providing relevant research to the working groups. He provides findings from all sources--federal, state, and private institutions. The technology is coming from ARS and university colleagues.

"The program is showing that scientists are real people who are willing and able to share their knowledge with others who will benefit most from having it," says Thomas J. Army, director of ARS' Northern Plains Area, Fort Collins.

"What worked in farming in the 1940's, or even as recently as 10 years ago, is not working today. Many changes have forever altered the way U.S. agriculture operates.

"We are more aware of dangers that chemicals pose to farmers who apply them and to rural and urban citizens who drink water and eat foods from treated fields. We are involved in stiff competition with farmers in other countries. All these factors are part of the TRIM team's program. I'm confident that the group will show us how to make U.S. farming more profitable and environmentally acceptable," he says.

"We need to minimize farmers' risks in using money--a needed but limited resource--while maximizing their profits," says Douglas Kinzie, loan officer at Century Bank in Sterling, Colorado. Kinzie services commercial loans to area farmers and is a program participant. "We hope to get useful technology to all people who provide support to agriculture and see them continue working together."

TRIM is governed by a board of directors representing the various team participants. A. Wayne Cooley, Logan County extension agent, is the program facilitator who coordinates and transfers technology to those who need it. He is supported by management teams that are assigned to individual cooperators.

Farmers involved in the demonstration project are diverse. Some are primarily livestock producers, while others grow irrigated crops or dryland wheat; some producers combine production systems. "By including so many systems, we add flexibility to agricultural production. We can demonstrate how combining certain operations results in more income some years, saves soil, reduces pesticide and fertilizer use. and cuts irrigation water needs," says Welsh.

"Just as a test drive is the best way to show a vehicle's handling qualities, demonstration is the best way to get agricultural technology to farmers. And transfer of today's technology is more complex than it was 50 years ago. Back then, educators could demonstrate how a single change, such as planting hybrid corn, could improve farm income. Today, we must often use computers to sift through thousands of facts, to arrive at the most reasonable alternatives for complex production systems that are made up of many component packages," says Welsh.

One package improves cropping systems on lands that have traditionally been wheat-fallowed. Under wheat-fallow, growers let land idle every other year so that moisture from limited rain and snowfall accumulates in the soil to support a wheat crop the following year.

But researchers at ARS' Central Great Plains Research Station, Akron, Colorado, now know that enough moisture accumulates to support crops for 2 subsequent years. They have shown that growers can successfully grow wheat and then corn after 1 fallow year. And they've shown they can include safflower as one of the crops. These alternative cropping systems can increase farm income by 30 percent or more.

Another package addresses growing alternate crops--those that historically have not been grown in the area, such as edible legumes and oilseed crops.

A third package includes research findings from the High Plains Grasslands Research Station in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It helps cattle producers select the best grazing system for their ranches and can also determine the profitability of re-seeding to different grasses to increase forage yield and cattle weight gain.

"This is the second year the TRIM team has been functioning. While it is centered on participants in eastern Colorado, our scientists will develop computer models to also help farmers and ranchers on the entire Great Plains," says Lajpat Ahuja, who is in charge of the Great Plains Systems Research Unit at Fort Collins.

Once proven for this project, the computer models will be used to help farmers in other parts of the country who produce different crops and commodities.

The Great Plains Framework for Agricultural Resource Management (GPFARM) systems model project already has scientists and cooperators assessing information needs and concerns of producers throughout the Plains--from Montana to Texas, and from Colorado to Nebraska.

"GPFARM will be a major step forward in bringing researchers together to meet customer needs. The sky's the limit when it comes to developing packages. If there's a need, we can work together to produce it," says Welsh.--By Dennis Setfit, ARS.

James R. Welsh is at the USDAARS Natural Resources Research Center, Crops Research Laboratory, 1701 Center Ave., Fort Collins, CO 80526; phone (303) 498-4227, fax (303) 498-4242.
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Title Annotation:Technology Resource Integrated Management
Author:Senft, Dennis
Publication:Agricultural Research
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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