Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Farmers needs are key to acceptance of new crops

01.09.2003


New agricultural crops stand a better chance of helping to fill the world’s bread baskets, says a University of Maine economist, if plant breeders take farmers’ needs into account early in the crop development process. A new research report by Timothy J. Dalton, assistant professor in the Dept. of Resource Economics and Policy, is one of the first to demonstrate farmers’ preferences using a quantitative approach.



Dalton’s research could help agricultural research organizations work with farmers in developing countries to increase food production. His paper, A Hedonic Model of Rice Traits: Economic Values from Farmers in West Africa, won a second place award in the T.W. Schultz competition for the best contributed paper at the 25th International Conference of Agricultural Economists in Durban, South Africa in August. The paper will be published in the journal Agricultural Economics in 2004.

Dalton is also co-author with R. G. Guei of a book chapter, Ecological Diversity and Rice Varietal Improvement in West Africa, that was cited in a recent article on the Green Revolution in Science magazine.


Indigenous, low yielding African rice tends to be aromatic and used principally for ceremonial purposes, Dalton explains. Over the years, Asian rice, first brought to Africa in the 1600s, gradually became a primary staple in some areas. Since the 1950s, rice breeders have developed new varieties by crossing Asian strains and, in the past ten years, by crossing African and Asian varieties. Those new varieties, however, have not been well accepted. To find out what farmers value in their crops, Dalton conducted a project in 1997 in the West African nation of Ivory Coast with Monty Jones, an internationally respected rice breeder. At the time, both Dalton and Jones worked for the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA).

"What we did is take rice varieties at an early stage of development and give them to farmers to find out what they see as promising. This is the participatory research approach in which farmers get involved at the early stage so they can have input into what’s valuable to them."

While high-yield varieties developed through traditional agricultural research methods have been adopted successfully in some areas of Africa, less than 11 percent of the cropland in the upland West African rice belt is planted with them, says Dalton. Through his research, he found that farmers value factors such as plant height, days to maturity and processing characteristics more than how much a plant yields.

"For example, traditional rice varieties take five months to mature. What we found is that farmers really wanted varieties that would mature in 110 days. Shaving off 40 days worth of labor was much more valuable than any yield increase. That allows them to free up labor for other crops and do other things. It also reduces the farmer’s risk since the crop is not as exposed to pest infestation, animals eating the crops and other potential losses."

Plant height was also an important factor. The new varieties associated with the Green Revolution tend to be dwarf or semi-dwarf plants that put more of their energy into the grain rather than stalks and leaves. However, farmers in the region harvest their rice by hand and preferred a stalk that was close to waist high.

"You can imagine bending over, stooping down to the ground and harvesting. That was very important to farmers," Dalton says. In choosing crops to plant, "there are compromises that need to be made. The farmers are saying that they value shorter duration varieties. They still want them about waist high so they can harvest them easily, and they would be willing to trade off high yield for those conveniences."

Farmers also consume much of their rice in their own households. As a result, their crop preferences tend to vary from those of farmers who raise more of their crop for the market, he adds.

"What I’ve done is derive some of the economic values of different crop traits which can then be used by breeders to move directly toward useful technologies," says Dalton. "My paper is novel in its use of a quantitative approach, but the trend toward more participation by farmers in research and development is getting to be commonplace throughout international ag research groups in developing countries."

During their two-year research project, Dalton and Jones created a plot with 60 different strains of rice from around the world, "a shopping center for new varieties." They invited local farmers to visit the plot at several stages of crop development and tell the researchers what they liked and didn’t like about each strain.

The following year, the researchers gave seed samples of preferred crops to the farmers to grow under their own conditions. Dalton then asked farmers to indicate what they liked and didn’t like about each strain and how much they would be willing to pay for the seed.

The results suggest that increases in food production are likely to occur through a sequence of steps as farmers adopt crops with characteristics that they prefer, eventually increasing overall rice production, adds Dalton.

At UMaine, Dalton conducts research on the needs of Maine’s agricultural industry. He has focused on the economics of potato field irrigation and the cost of milk production. He is a member of the governor’s panel on dairy industry sustainability. Dalton teaches microeconomics and is scheduled to teach a course on world food supply and the environment in 2004.

Timothy J. Dalton | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umaine.edu/

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht New parsley virus discovered by Braunschweig researchers
17.05.2019 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH

nachricht Franco-German research initiative on low-pesticide agriculture in Europe
16.05.2019 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF) e.V.

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

Im Focus: A step towards probabilistic computing

Working group led by physicist Professor Ulrich Nowak at the University of Konstanz, in collaboration with a team of physicists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, demonstrates how skyrmions can be used for the computer concepts of the future

When it comes to performing a calculation destined to arrive at an exact result, humans are hopelessly inferior to the computer. In other areas, humans are...

Im Focus: Recording embryonic development

Scientists develop a molecular recording tool that enables in vivo lineage tracing of embryonic cells

The beginning of new life starts with a fascinating process: A single cell gives rise to progenitor cells that eventually differentiate into the three germ...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

A simple, yet versatile, new design for chaotic oscillating circuitry inspired by prime numbers

22.05.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Synthesis of helical ladder polymers

21.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

Ultra-thin superlattices from gold nanoparticles for nanophotonics

21.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>