Making the Scientist-Farmer Connection

Farmers work one way, weed scientists communicate in another - bridging that gap is important.

Published on: Nov 2, 2010

The link between knowledgeable weed scientists and the farmers they want to help is important these days - with rising concern of herbicide tolerant weeds and other factors that impact your bottom line. According to an article published this month in the journal Weed Science there may be a communication challenge between farmer and scientist.

The article Investigating the Human Dimension of Weed Management: New Tools of the Trade explores the communications dynamic between farmer and scientist. The writers note that farmers most often learn by doing and through farmer-to-farmer networks while scientists frequently use excessive jargon and data. These two styles may create a disconnect between the information the scientists has and the farmer's understanding of how that information may help him produce more or save money.

How farmers tackle weed issues and why they make key decisions are important components to weed management that scientists often ignore. Instead, scientists see farmers taking a reactive role to weed control, waiting too long to act, and relying heavily on herbicides. But bridging these two approaches is important to get better weed control practices put to work on more farms.

Extension programs are commonly used to educate farmers and others about weed management techniques. However, most researchers and extension educators have no training in the psychology of how people make decisions. To bring about a change in behavior, a message must be valuable to the recipient. For example, different approaches are needed for organic farmers compared to conventional farmers.

So next time you're in a presentation with a weed scientist, or have a chance to talk to them, make sure you're both on the same page when talking about how you tackle weed issues. There may be some opportunities there to improve how you approach this important economic problem.