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Scientists Are From Mars Farmers Are From Venus

10 November 2000


The Need For Scientists And Farmers To Learn To Communicate Better

Despite millions of dollars being invested in fertiliser research in the last decade, farmers are not able to fully benefit from the knowledge this research provides. The reason for this, believes Dr Hilton Furness, Fert Research’s Technical Director, is because scientists and farmers talk different languages.

Says Dr Furness, “If New Zealand agriculture is to move forward we need to find ways for farmers and scientists to communicate better. There is a tremendous amount of ground-breaking research being done in New Zealand that gives us practical information on ways to improve land management but not enough of this information is getting through to farmers at the grass roots level. To address this situation everyone needs to be thinking about how they can better communicate. There are many people who have a role to play here.”

Fert Research believes that farm consultants and the media have key roles to play in helping bridge the gap between farmers and scientists. The media are particularly important as they report results of valuable research findings in a way that is easy to understand and relevant to the farmer.

Dr Furness believes the situation is similar to the one the food and nutrition sector was in not so long ago. “Now nutrition researchers are somewhat better at communicating with the general public and there is a growing group of experts who are able to work with the media to educate people about important issues. We need to see the same steps taken in the agricultural sector.”

Part of Fert Research’s strategy to help in sharing important research findings are their regular conferences where people across the agricultural sector are invited to hear experts talk about all aspects of fertiliser use. They are also developing a comprehensive research strategy, in consultation with farmers and scientists, to ensure that the significant contribution they make to fertiliser research each year is used effectively.

Says Dr Furness, “The range of presentations at this year’s Fert Research conference is an example of the type of research that needs to be communicated to farmers. The programme includes findings on areas such as use of fertiliser on dry hill country and strategies to reduce nitrogen leaching. For many farmers these findings have important implications. They could potentially save considerable money by learning more about the results of these studies and also ensure they are practicing the very best sustainable land use techniques.”

The Fert Research 26th Technical Conference is being held at Lincoln University on November 14 and 15. Entitled ‘Fertiliser Research: Unlocking the Potential of New Zealand Agriculture,’ the conference focuses on practical insights, technological advances, the role of fertiliser in the success of New Zealand agriculture and the future of the fertiliser industry.

For further information please contact:

Dr Hilton Furness
Fert Research
Phone; (09) 415 1357 or mobile; (025) 516 817

Andrea Thuell,
Network Communications,
Phone; (09) 379 3154 or mobile; (025) 318 693
Fax; (09) 308 9456 or email;

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