The old saying ‘curiosity killed the cat’ originates from the idea that to stay safe, you should do only what’s known. If you follow the normal, accepted practice and don’t step out into the unknown, everything will be just fine. The cat will be okay.
I believe that those of us who work in agriculture are amongst the most innovative and brilliant people there are across many industries. However, more and more I believe a lack of curiosity is killing agriculture. Or more so, the lack of willingness to act on curiosity. Because we are curious, and we do ask a lot of questions. However, whether it’s a consequence of busy-ness, scale, workload or complexity, our priorities and availability mean that we don’t give ourselves permission to act on those curiosities. As a consequence, we just keep doing what we’ve always done, staying safe but stagnant, not knowing what we might be missing out on.
How can you be safely curious? I certainly don’t want to see you jumping off a cliff and completely changing your strategy. Baby steps are best, along with some good ol’ common sense. If you’re a livestock producer, think about your processes next time you’re bringing a mob through the yards. Why are you treating them with that product? Have you seen positive results with you own eyes (or data)? Or did your neighbour/agent/sales rep say you should be doing it, so that’s what you always do? If it’s the latter, give yourself permission to get curious. Treat and identify a portion of the mob, and next time they’re in the yards look at any differences. If there’s an observable, positive difference you can now have confidence in your investment and you’ve suffered no great losses. If there are no differences between treatments, then your curiosity has saved you time and money.
If you’re a farmer, select a small paddock or a portion of a larger paddock in which you can be curious. Maybe you could trial using variable rates of fertiliser – with the technology available these days it’s easy to press some buttons to make that happen for a few runs – or why not compare biological treatment versus no treatment. In these situations, it’s often important to stick with it for a few years before drawing conclusions. Particularly with cropping, a change in practice is usually linked back to soil health and improving soil health takes time. By ‘sacrificing’ a portion of the paddock and getting curious, you can compare what happens to the areas where it’s business as usual. Look at yields, crunch the numbers, and then make an informed decision on what’s the best course of action for the rest of the paddock.
You guys on the ground are the world leaders in R&D (research and development) and commercial application of trial work. You’re in the best place to do research and extension because you’re not trying to operate within any parameters, you have the ability think on your feet and the drive for continuous improvement. So, make the most of it. Be curious. Ask questions. And if you come up with an interesting thought or idea go and try it. Done safely I reckon the cat will live through it, and it might just get the cream.
P.S. If you’re finding something amazing, interesting or you’re thinking about something that could have a good outcome, let us know. We love hearing about what you’re doing. If you need a hand interrogating the data, give us a call and we can go through it together.