Developing a new approach to extension for widespread adoption of Best Management Practice
MUL001 has sought to improve the uptake of research outcomes by the sugar industry’s growing sector. It is recognised that the traditional one-to-one extension approach is no longer affordable and the current system was not adequately facilitating the uptake of research at a time when the industry needed to make every post a winner. This project developed a group extension program in the Mulgrave region to promote the development and adoption of best management practice. 13 productivity groups were established which sought to involve 100% of growers. These groups utilise discussion type meetings and field demonstrations in order to enhance the individual knowledge and understanding of various aspects of sugarcane production, which are relevant to the management decisions faced at the time. Typically each group would meet 4 to 5 times each year. Emphasis is placed on learning from other growers as well as people with specialist knowledge in each particular field. Monitoring programs were also utilised to enhance the knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes of individuals. Monitoring harnesses the power of learning-by-doing and has proven very effective. Monitoring programs for production constraints such as canegrubs, rats and weevil borer were coordinated by this project and strategically timed to enhance the effectiveness of group activities. The group extension program has been in operation since March 2000 and continues to improve in effectiveness and grower participation. Throughout the project 89% of growers participated in the extension program and on average, 63% of cane production areas were represented at each group activity. Although it is difficult to objectively measure change in knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes, there are numerous examples of subtle but visible change in the behaviour of farm managers, which could be attributed to the extension program. An important output of the project has been the development of a communication structure. This structure has proven invaluable to maintain information flow throughout all sectors of the industry and maintain a dialogue in an age of continuous change and uncertainty. This structure will be necessary to drive real and sustained change in the industry.