Cropcheck: Farmer benchmarking participatory model to improve productivity
In the 1970s in southern NSW, Australia, information was delivered to farmers through the transfer of technology (TOT) model. It was 'top down' with knowledge generated by researchers being passed onto farmers by extension officers. Farmers' knowledge was not respected by research and extension workers. In contrast Cropcheck is a farmer participatory program which benchmarks farmer crops to identify practices for lifting yields. With TOT there was good adoption of single factor technologies such as wheat varieties but by the late 1970s to early 1980s wheat yields were stagnant or only slowly improving. There was the realisation that farmers had valuable knowledge and that multiple factors were needed to increase productivity. To address these needs in developing countries many farmer participatory models were developed. This paper, based on my experiences as an extension officer, records development in a developed country of a farmer participatory crop benchmarking model called Cropcheck. This program benchmarks farmer crops to identify the checks (best practices) related to high yields. It has been successful in lifting crop yields and profitability. This paper discusses the development of the model for irrigated wheat, i.e. the Finley Five Tonne Irrigated Wheat Club (referred to hereafter as "Wheat Club") and adaption of the model for irrigated subterranean clover pasture, i.e. Subcheck. Since farmer participatory extension theory was undeveloped at that time, the development of the model was an intuitive learning process. The process was a planning, action and review cycle. Several years involving crop monitoring, farmer training, crop recording and reviewing results were needed to identify the objective checks consistently improving yields and gross margins. The results showed the more checks adopted the higher the yield and profitability. Farmers were trained in the learning steps of observing, monitoring, measuring, interpreting and recording their own crop practices. Farmer discussion groups were important for communication. Cropcheck has high farmer credibility because the checks are identified from farmer crops. Over a period of 6Â years, yields of the "Wheat Club" increased by 50%. With Subcheck the problem of reddened subclover and inconsistent production disappeared. The Cropcheck model has been adapted for many crops in eastern Australia. Precision agriculture and electromagnetic mapping and geographic information systems (GIS) have followed on as new technology and monitoring tools for farmers but it is still important to ground truth these technologies with crop monitoring.
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- Farrington, John, 1989. "Farmer participation in agricultural research," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 97-100, May.
- Webber, Lynn M. & Ison, R. L., 1995. "Participatory Rural Appraisal Design: Conceptual and process issues," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 107-131.
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