Date of this Version
Published in CSA News 53 (May 2021), pp 52-56.
Including farmers, growers, and ranchers (hereinafter referred to as producers) as active participants in the development of knowledge, through extension and on-farm research programs, is an effective method of agricultural technology and innovation transfer. The emerging interest in understanding agricultural systems’ complexity has fostered collaborations between producers and land grant universities, particularly across graduate programs focused on applied research. While the concept of on-farm research is not new, the scale and impact of on-farm studies conducted by researchers in partnership with producers are expanding (Kyveryga, 2019). Can master’s and Ph.D. research projects be conducted at the farm scale and generate data-driven recommendations to improve producers’ management decisions? Based on our graduate school experiences working with on-farm trials in agronomy, crop science, soil science, and entomology areas, our opinion is that the answer to both of these questions is a resounding “yes.” Recognizing the opportunities and challenges in conducting on-farm studies as part of master’s or Ph.D. projects, we offer our reflections and recommendations to hopefully help and encourage other graduate students who may be considering initiating on-farm studies.