Todays science setup failing farmers
30th Apr 10, 1:18pm
We trained them in the belief they would take up careers as agricultural scientists helping keep the NZ farmer out in front. So, where have they gone? There was a time when we farmers looked to scientists to give us the edge on our overseas competitors and that’s exactly what they did. Research stations such as Invermay led the world in every aspect of farming – from deer, molybdenum to biogas, our scientists were there reports Rural News. We are talking the late 1970s and the mid-1980s,an era when research results were passed onto farmers with encouragement to try them out. There were farm advisory officers whose mission was to help farmers understand and use the research. Agricultural science leaders such as Dr Jock Allison believed getting research results out to farmers was just as important as the results. To his mind it was crazy leaving them on the shelf. In 1986 when research was landed with user pays and MAF was split up with research eventually going to a new beast called a CRI (Crown Research Institute) Overnight the importance of farmers was replaced by the importance of making money for the government. Two decades later Allison is still rattling cages. Technology transfer between researchers and farmers is minimal. Information that does get through the PR machine has a commercial spin. This lack of objectivity is inevitable when CRIs are tied into joint ventures with commercial organisations. These alliances mean research results are owned by the investing company, which has no commercial incentive to share information. This is the so-called ‘competitive funding model’ in action. Since the introduction of user-pays, highly skilled scientists spend weeks putting in applications for research work. To keep costs down successful contracts seldom have funding for serious extension work. Where there is information, it’s difficult to separate good science from company spin.