Strawberry Plasticulture in North Carolina: I. Developing a Competitive Horticultural Industry Requires “Experts,” not “Participatory Groups.”

in HortTechnology

The U.S. land-grant university system has been coming under increasing criticism by a number of extension professionals, as well as senior horticulturists, for its primary emphasis on basic research at the expense of applied research and service to horticultural industries. Once-strong extension/research/producer ties have been weakened, and this could result in further declines in general public support for land-grant universities. New approaches, including a “participatory model,” have been proposed as a mechanism to provide public feedback to land-grant scientists on relevant areas of basic science and encourage implementation of new technologies. However, our present expert/student relationship between research scientists and grower would be altered if the participatory model were to be adopted. Recognizing the limitations of existing horticultural production systems and visualizing new purposes for technology is the work of “experts,” not committees. The experience in North Carolina has been that a commodity specialist with a split research/extension appointment (20/80) is capable of providing leadership and guidance `to the scientific community on the problems and research needs of industry. In the case of introducing North Carolina farmers to “strawberry plasticulture,” the split appointment specialist had a role in: 1) identifying useful technological innovations from outside the university community (“reverse technology”); 2) conducting localized testing on promising new “hybrid growing systems”; and 3) extending new research findings to industry.

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