Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



Presented at: USAID International Centers Day, International Agricultural Research Centers, Washington, DC, United States, October 21, 1987

Published by Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States,1988


"Food production and rural income are two prime concerns of Third World governments. Increased food production and greater food security are goals which countries strive to achieve through agricultural development. The technologies generated by research, commonly known as green revolution methods, have provided an impetus to food production in some favored zones where resources are available to take advantage of this production package. New varieties, productive and responsive to fertilizer, have bought time while countries work to control population growth and develop agriculture and industry" (Francis and Harwood, 1985).

The pioneering work of the International Agricultural Research Centers has been successful in developing varieties and packages and in training national program scientists and extension specialists to validate and move them to the field. The process and progress have been summarized by Wortman and Cummings (1978). We now know that the substantial inputs of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and fossil fuels needed to adopt many of these new technologies has made them unavailable or unaffordable to most limited resource farmers. In addition, experience shows that indiscriminate use of fertilizers and pesticides can add unnecessary production costs and even create dangers to farmers and their families.

The greatest immediate challenges facing national research and extension programs and the international centers are the development of appropriate and productive alternative technologies and how to move these practices and systems to those farmers who are as yet beyond the reach of current programs. There is growing consensus about the focus of future research and development priorities, including:

--concentration on low-input strategies which depend on internal resources on the farm;
--exploitation of biological efficiencies inherent in diversified cropping systems;
--development of more productive multiple cropping and crop/livestock integrated systems;
--examination of how components fit together in systems and how complex interactions can be understood and used to advantage;
--analysis of risk inherent in adoption of new and possibly more expensive technologies; and
--application of some farming systems methodology in identification of key constraints and participatory approaches to development of solutions.

These ideas are not new -- many have emerged through experiences of scientists in the international centers and in key national programs. Each of the topics is explored in some detail, with key references given for further reading and study.