A pilot project aimed to help Alberta producers adopt new technology and innovation recently brought ranchers and farmers together with experts and scientists during a tour of east-central Alberta farms. Who to trust to interpret good and innovative science-based agriculture information was one of the topics discussed.
“Some ranchers are most comfortable with getting their information from their peer group and that may include neighbouring ranchers and farmers,” said Susan Markus, livestock research scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “Others consult with trusted vets, nutritionists, local agronomists or simply read popular press or online sources.”
How people search out information changes over time, and it can often be linked to certain demographics. Innovators look to be the first to try something while others need to see proof the innovation works under their conditions before they adopt it. Younger producers may be more comfortable with social media and technology compared to an older generation who may rely more on newsprint, radio and field days.
Markus added that regardless of the preferred method to gather information for decision-making, it needs to be from a credible source. “On top of that, if the information or innovation is not a priority or comes at the wrong time, no matter how good, it will not be easily adopted. Time, desire and economics have to come together to implement change.”
Not all scientific discoveries have immediate practical use for the farm. Research projects often take several years before pieces of that research have practical value to a producer.
Groups such as the Alberta Beef, Forage and Grazing Centre have a number of extension specialists, scientists and government management staff who meet regularly to discuss research projects and upcoming issues.
Karin Schmid, with the Alberta Beef Producers, said that producers who provide valuable input and insight during research funding direction and priority discussions ensure that limited industry funding is being used in the most efficient way that provides the best return.
“These committee members are active ranchers and farmers in the province dealing with the complexities of crop and livestock production. While we know not everyone will agree with which projects are chosen to be funded in any given call for proposals, we do know that potential positive impact to the industry is the top priority.”
She added that once these projects are at their final reporting stages, it is important to implement an outreach, extension and technology transfer component to aid in awareness and provide the information to facilitate adoption where possible.
“Government, industry, and groups like the applied research and forage associations, partner and work together to develop effective extension/technology transfer strategies. This is how the data gets translated for practical use, but due diligence on the part of the farmer is needed to make it applicable to specific farm situations.”
Testimonials and unproven results sometimes get a lot of traction in the farming community when marketing, social media and misinterpretation spread too easily among many people. It is easy to get caught up in what seems like a silver bullet solution, but know that “quick, easy and cheap” is usually too good to be true.
The group conducting this project included researchers at the Alberta Beef, Forage and Grazing Centre (ABFGC) along with specialists at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, members of the Alberta Beef Producers and Agriculture and Agri Food Canada.
For more information on this series, contact Susan Markus: