There’s great research on how to make the horticulture industry more environmentally friendly, but that knowledge may not be reaching farmers, producers, extension specialists and others in the field, says a Brock agricultural researcher.
To find out more, Niagara Community Observatory Research Fellow Amy Lemay is sending out surveys to three groups of practitioners asking them how they share, access and use scientific research to adopt sustainable management practices, or ‘best management practices’ (BMP), in Ontario’s horticultural industry.
“With increasing pressure on the agriculture sector to be sustainable, it’s crucial for farmers to have access to information that will help them make decisions on how to adopt best management practices,” says Lemay, who is also an Adjunct Professor in Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre and Fellow in the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute.
The survey for horticultural farmers will list around 25 best management practices dealing with soil quality, irrigation, pesticide use, erosion control, cover crops, and other ecological, social and economic aspects of their work.
That survey will ask farmers which practices they’ve adopted and what led to their decisions, says Lemay.
“What are the preferred ways for farmers to find out about research and information on best management practices?” she says. “What are the sources of their information? How useful do they find this information?”
Another survey group is stakeholders, who Lemay calls “intermediaries” or knowledge brokers such as industry associations, extension specialists, conservation authorities, government bodies, and seed, fertilizer and chemical suppliers.
“We’re asking them how often they use different activities like publishing in a farm magazine, writing blogs, posting information on websites, producing podcasts, writing fact sheets, speaking at conferences and others to share and disseminate research results,” she says.
The third survey is aimed at researchers, who number around 400 scientists and academics across Canada doing research to develop, test and validate BMPs.
That survey will glean how researchers share their results with the wider horticultural community, or end users, and will ask if and how farmers, extension workers and other end users helped to design the research in the early stages.
Farmers, practitioners and researchers in the horticultural sector wanting to fill out the surveys can access them in the links provided above or can contact Lemay at email@example.com
Lemay and her team will also be in Booth 116 at the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention, to be held at the Scotia Bank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls Wednesday, Feb. 23 and Thursday, Feb. 24. Attendees can fill out surveys at the booth.
The surveys explore the concept of knowledge mobilization, the process of getting research results and insights into the hands of non-academic stakeholders, media and the general public.
The process involves translating that knowledge, explaining complicated scientific concepts and terms in ways easily understood and used by non-specialists.
“We need to move the science out of the lab and into the hands of the people who are going to use it,” says Lemay. “Innovation is part research and part knowledge mobilization.”
The surveys are part of a larger research project examining the role of knowledge mobilization in the adoption of best management practices in Ontario’s horticultural industry.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is supporting this work with a $115,000 grant.
Also supporting the research is a highly competitive Grants4Ag grant that Bayer Crop Science awarded Lemay last month. Lemay was one of 21 award recipients worldwide out of a pool of more than 350 submissions.
The research team, headed by Professor of Political Science Charles Conteh, aims to identify and evaluate the barriers to knowledge mobilization that impede the adoption of best management practices in Ontario’s horticultural sector and to identify strategies and approaches for overcoming those barriers.
The surveys will run until Thursday, March 31. After that, focus groups will use the survey results to discuss the way forward for developing effective ways of sharing and accessing sustainable horticulture research that support the adoption of best management practices.
Also, part of the project is a Niagara case study that will be done by Brock Master of Sustainability graduate student Kaitlyn Carr.
For her thesis project, Carr will study how knowledge mobilization has been instrumental in the adoption of integrated pest management for newly identified grape viruses that threaten not only the health of grape vines, but also the quality of grapes.
Integrated pest management is a widely adopted best management practice that uses a combination of sustainable methods to manage pests.