LIVING in an ever-changing world brings with it the need to do things in a better way and achieve an improved outcome.
Change is the one thing we can be certain of, so it is important that we embrace the concept and then decide each opportunity on a case-by-case situation.
In agriculture, much of the change on-farm is driven by good quality research, either applied on-farm research or on an organised scientific basis in trials or a laboratory.
It has been my long-held belief that every farmer should be conducting their own applied on-farm research provided the outcomes are assessed objectively. Running a test strip in a cropping paddock may have great visual results, but it is not a success or otherwise until the performance is measured correctly.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent each year on what many would consider to be failed research, but not all that money is wasted in my opinion.
In the process of trying to improve, it is important to know what does not work as well as what does. Knowledge from a so-called 'failure' is often used in the designing future research projects.
My occupations as a TAFE lecturer and private consultant was fundamentally about extending the outcomes of research to allow my clients to evaluate if it was appropriate for their farms. It was therefore critical that the ideas I was espousing had very solid foundations.
One of my roles in my early days of consulting was as the executive officer of the MacKillop Farm Management Group, where cropping research is the cornerstone of the group's activities.
Many companies would approach the MFMG to have research done on their varieties or products. The one thing that underpinned the credibility of this research was the independence of the researchers. SARDI conducted this research in accordance with strict protocols that were agreed to.
In some instances, we were approached by businesses whose staff were nothing more than "snake oil" sales people, who had little understanding of the science behind their product and had done very few trials to objectively assess the product.
The MFMG helped sort out if the product or variety had merit.
Besides independence in research, the reputation of the researchers is paramount.
A good track record gives confidence that research protocols will be followed correctly and completed within an agreed timeframe. I sometimes wonder how many good hypotheses have not had justice done due to poor quality research.
Repeatability of results in a variety of situations and no bias become crucial elements of a successful outcome.
If there is one good example of the importance of research, it is the development of coronavirus vaccines.
The importance of research to agriculture should never be underestimated and farmers are encouraged to be proactive in this space.
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