See more from this Session: Symposium--Developing On-Farm Research and Education Plots
Tuesday, November 2, 2010: 3:30 PM
Long Beach Convention Center, Room 103C, First Floor
For various reasons, extension specialists find themselves conducting increasing amounts of applied research. For this reason, extension specialists often require sites to conduct research projects and/or result demonstrations that are used to enhance the specialists educational programming capabilities. Many times, however, agricultural experiment station lands are not available for extension-led research projects, and the specialist must seek out privately held sites on which to conduct the research project. Private landowners and extension generally have a very cordial relationship and landowners are extremely quick to offer their properties on which to have the research project conducted. While these generous offers to use these private lands are much appreciated by extension specialists, conducting research on private lands has potential for problems if not carried out in an appropriate manner. Because most offers and acceptance to use the private lands are conducted on the typical “handshake” basis, landowners many times do not fully understand or appreciate the critical need for the specialist to have total control over the project site. Landowners sometimes believe they are helping when they blanket apply fertilizer to a fertility study or burn off sites where it may appear that weeds or brush have been controlled. Landowners, too, may apply herbicide to treatment plots or mow the project area, again in the belief they are helping the specialist. Obviously, these well intended actions have devastating consequences for the research project and are a major cause of frustration for many extension specialists who routinely conduct research on private lands. A better approach could include a process of formal meetings where all details of the research project are discussed with the landowner, and are then made available in written form. Landowners who are better informed about the totality of the project are much less likely to apply inadvertent treatments to the experiment. Likewise, frequent project status updates and a renewed discussion of the project protocol will help the landowner understand what is allowable and what is not. Finally, a written contract that spells out the restrictions that must be in place throughout the project, or describes when certain activities may or may not take place, may be the best guard against unintentional actions that may result in the loss of several years of money and effort from extension research projects conducted on privately owned property.