student profile: Miss Laura Ruiz Espinosa


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Thesis work

Thesis title: Comparison of extension and innovation systems to adopt sustainable agriculture in wheat production areas in Mexico and Australia

Supervisors: Peter AMPT , Richard TRETHOWAN

Thesis abstract:

Agricultural innovation and extension is a key component in the agriculture area for most if not for all the countries around the world. Worldwide, farming systems range from large-scale, highly specialized, capital-intensive operations as in Europe and North America; to small-scale, labour-intensive production systems with diverse livelihood strategies both on and off farm in most of developing countries. These systems contribute to degradation of the natural resources, loss of biodiversity and increase in GHG emission that damage the environment (Beddington et al., 2012). Extension generally remains as a publicly funded component of the innovation system in developing countries. In Australia, however there has been a progressive shift away from publically funded extension.

Extension defined in a traditional way is seen as a transfer of information where farmers have a passive role in the communication process due to the lack of effective information delivery (Pannell et al., 2006). Within the extension and innovation systems an array of approaches have evolved through time from the top-down to the bottom-up perspective: Transfer of Technology (ToT), Farming Systems Research (FSR), Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems (AKIS) and the most recent Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS) (Klerkx et al., 2012). Some research suggest capacity building and networking are key components for the disseminating a new practice or a novel technology (Cary et al., 2001).

There is a range of programs globally to develop more sustainable agricultural production systems. For example; by promoting the adoption of environmentally sustainable farming practices and technologies it is hoped that farmers use less inputs to reduce the cost of production and address soil degradation. Sustainable agriculture can be defined as a set of management strategies but involves at the same time three approaches: environmental, economic and social and ensures that the present does not restrict the options of future generations. In other words, agricultural systems are considered to be sustainable if they can continue indefinitely: they are economically viable, environmentally safe and socially equitable.

According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2015) a key component of sustainable agriculture involves the practice of Conservation Agriculture (CA) aiming to make an efficient use of natural resources through sustainable farming practices and integrated management of available soil, water and biological resources combined with external inputs (as cited in Hobbs et al., 2008). CA covers three main principles: minimal soil disturbance (zero tillage), stubble retention (mulch to maintain the soil cover) and crop rotation (to improve soil nutrients and control plant diseases). However there are some issues which have been raised with this practice as the use of herbicides that does not promote at sustainable practice at all.

The goal of this research if to look at the Extension and Innovation Systems in wheat productions areas in two countries with differences in public/private investment but similarities such as farming practices, some agroecological conditions and the role of farmers organizations, government and private sector to foster the extension and innovation system in agriculture.

Note: This profile is for a student at the University of Sydney. Views presented here are not necessarily those of the University.