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The Transfer of New Technology to Small Farms in Taiwan Roc
Hsiung Wan
Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute,
Wufeng, Taichung, Taiwan ROC, 1985-08-01


Taiwan's agriculture is based on small-scale farms, which have been made very much more productive over recent decades by new agricultural technology. This paper discusses some cases of technology transfer to small farms in Taiwan, includes with a discussion of what factors contribute to the success of technology transfer to small farms in Taiwan.


Agriculture in Taiwan has changed dramatically during the past four decades; improved crop varieties, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and other new technologies have all contributed to yield increases ranging from 80% to more than 300%. Technological breakthroughs even made possible the increased production of some crops from virtually nil to substantial. Those crops are of major economic importance today. I should like to give a few examples. Remarkable success has been achieved in mushroom production. There were no mushrooms produced in Taiwan until 1953. As soon as rice straw compost came into use, and improved mushroom strains were developed, the mushroom yield increased significantly and the mushroom industry became a booming business. The highest production, in 1978, reached 119,460 mt, with a value of US$58.9 million. Another example is asparagus production. This began in 1955 on a very small scale. The marked increase in production was due to the discovery by research workers that reserving some of the stems to overwinter as mother stalks supplied nutrients to support vigorous growth by new shoots the following year. Research was also important in the production of onions, which thrive in a cool dry climate. When onions were first planted in Taiwan, only vigorous vegetative growth took place, while no or very small bulbs formed. The successful production of bulbs of economic value was also due to research work, which found that younger seed sets 35 days old should be used, instead of the conventional 60-day old sets generally used in countries in higher latitudes.

All these technologies transferred to the growers increased production. However, general acceptance varied according to the type of crop and technology. With regard to the two examples given above, the technology for mushroom production was the more difficult to transfer, because it included the choice of the right mushroom strains, and the complex processes involved in the cultural practices. In the case of onion the transfer was much easier, because the technology is low site specific (Swindale 1981).

The official channel of agricultural technology transfer in Taiwan is through the District Agricultural Improvement Stations (DAIS) and Farmers' Associations. At present, there are six DAIS's and 269 Township Farmers Associations. The transfer of new scientific knowledge and technology is achieved through field demonstrations, special gatherings, extension leaflets, radio and TV programs, etc.

This paper describes some cases of new technology transfer that have occurred recently, each with its special features. Factors favoring technology transfer are also discussed. Since the average farm size in Taiwan in 1984 was only 1.10 ha, any technology transfer described in this paper refers to small family farms.

Rapid Acreage Expansion of the Rice Cultivar, Tainung 67

The unofficial release and widespread cultivation of the rice breeding line Tainung yuh A-6, later registered as Tainung 67, is very unusual and interesting. This variety has also given a tremendous impetus to rice production since its official release. Tainung yuh A-6 was a selection of Taichung 187 (line 138)/Tainung 61/Tainung 61. After a series of tests, it was submitted to the relevant authority to be tested in the official regional yield trial. However, the evaluation committee initially rejected the request, because of the fact that Tainung yuh A-6 is not resistant to blast disease, and this resistance is a prerequisite before a new rice cultivar can be officially registered.

The spread of Tainung yuh A-6 began in the Hsinchu area, where there were strong seasonal winds while the second rice crop was growing. Farmers in this area needed a cultivar resistant to lodging, to reduce losses from wind damage. Tainung yuh A-6 was then tested in a regional yield trial in that area. Its good stand attracted the farmer's attention, while agronomic performance in other respects was also excellent, in particular its high yielding ability and the ease of culture (wide adaptability). One farmer then asked a friend at TARI to give him some seeds to test on his own farm. From then on, Tainung yuh A-6 spread out from that locality to be grown commercially over virtually the whole island. Three years later, 100,000 ha had been planted in Tainung yuh A-6, under different names, through the farmers' own seed dissemination. Seed impurity was obvious, as a result of mechanical mixing during seed multiplication by farmers. Consequently, Tainung yuh A-6 had to be officially registered under the name Tainung 67 in 1978.

Since the official release of Tainung 67, the area growing this variety has increased so rapidly that Tainung 67 occupied 70.3% of the total rice area in Taiwan in 1982. This was the first time such a rapid expansion of a newly released cultivar has been seen in the history of rice production in Taiwan. Five years after its release, Huang (1984), the breeder, estimated that Tainung 67 had had the following significant effects on rice production:

  • 1. Rice production has increased by about 10% (based on a five-year average 1977-1981).
  • 2. The mechanization of harvesting has been accelerated by six years, because the lodging-resistant Tainung 67 can be harvested by machine.
  • 3. Damage caused by lodging has been greatly reduced.
  • 4. Its wide adaptability enabled this cultivar to be grown in any cropping seasons and in any region.
  • 5. The chemical control of rice blast is largely effective. Thus, the blast susceptibility of Tainung 67 has never been considered a serious disadvantage by farmers sicne its release.

This story indicates that technology transfer can sometimes be achieved without any effort, if the new technology is fitted to farmers' needs, and assuming that the farmers are knowledgeable and very skillful. Another point I would like to mention, is that the reason for the delay entering Tainung yuh A-6 for the regional yield trials, that the authority in question was trying to prevent an outbreak of rice blast disease, is surely adequate. Although blast disease is well under control by chemical means five years after the release of Tainung 67, this is a special case, and should not be followed as an example.

Single Cross Hybrid Corn, Tainung 351

Rice is the major staple food for the Chinese people in Taiwan. For food self-sufficiency, the government previously encouraged farmers to grow rice, and established a guaranteed price system in 1974 to ensure rice growers' profit. Since then, annual rice production has been maintained at 2.4 million mt, in spite of a gradual reduction in acreage. On the other hand, rice consumption is decreasing, as a result of dietary change to more bread and meat. The excess rice purchased by the government through the guaranteed price system has caused considerable financial losses, and also created pressure on storage facilities. Thus, the government in 1983 announced the beginning of a six-year rice field conversion project, in order to reduce rice production.

In the rice conversion program, farmers are encouraged to grow corn as a substitute for the second rice crop in paddy fields. There is no problem in marketing corn, regardless of how much is produced. Incentives include a guaranteed price of NT$15 (US$.37) per kilogram, with an additional subsidy of one ton of paddy rice for each hectare of land diverted to corn (equivalent to US$370/ha). However, the available hybrid corn cultivars are in general adapted to late fall or winter planting, after the second rice crop is over, and are early maturing with low yields. Thus, the development of a late maturing, high yielding corn cultivar was urgently needed, in order to make the profit from growing corn comparable to, or higher than, that from growing rice. For this purpose, TARI developed a single cross hybrid corn, Tainung 351, which yielded an average of 6 mt/ha of grain in province-wide demonstration trials. This per hectare yield is almost double that obtained from the old commercial early maturing hybrid cultivars. Some of the better farmers may even produce as much as 9-10 mt/ha. The growth period is 105-115 days in the spring, and 115-130 days for the fall crop. This cultivar is also resistant to common rust disease, sugarcane mosaic virus and leaf blight, and is highly responsive to fertilizers. The high yields and other agronomic characteristics of Tainung 351 seemed to meet the requirements for the rice conversion program, so that we were confident that this new corn cultivar would be widely accepted by framers when released in 1984. A large quantity of hybrid seeds was produced, and was ready for use for the 1984 fall planting. The projected acreage of Tainung 351 was 20,000 ha. Great efforts were made to persuade farmers to achieve this goal, but the result was only 9,000 ha of rice fields converted to corn. Farmers hesitated to grow corn as a substitute for the second rice crop, for the following reasons:

  • 1. Farmers are familiar with growing rice, but not with the cultivation of corn, so that an immediate change to growing corn causes some difficulties in cultural operations.
  • 2. The current labor shortage and high labor costs have caused rice production to become highly mechanized. Apart from land preparation and planting, corn production is not mechanized, particularly the tedious and costly process of harvesting. A corn harvester adapted to local environmental conditions is still being developed.
  • 3. The present cropping system allows farmers to grow two crops of rice and a third winter crop each year. When corn is used as a second crop, it is planted in August _ September while the first rice crop is harvested in May _ June. Farmers with only a small farm are inclined to use their land as intensively as possible, and are unwilling to leave land fallow for a period of three months. At present, we are still not able to find any cash crop that can be adequately fitted into the gap.
  • 4. Although there is a guaranteed price for corn, the purchasing system was not well organized at the beginning of the project. Most farmers sold their grain on the market at a much lower price. Thus, farmers doubted whether the purchasing system could be operated properly in the next cropping season. Their enthusiasm for participating in the rice conversion program thus became less.
  • 5. Climatic conditions, such as high temperatures, abundant rainfall and sufficient irrigation water, are favorable for growing a second rice crop but are disadvantageous for growing corn. It is even more risky to plant corn early in August to obtain higher yields.
  • 6. The major corn growing area is in a region with a three-year rotation system, which allows farmers to grow rice two years out of three. Therefore, farmers in this area do not want to give up their privilege when it is their turn to grow rice.

New Cultivars of Pear and Juicy Peach for Tropical Lowlands

The pear and juicy peach are both temperate zone fruits. However in Taiwan, the pear cultivar `Hungshan' can be grown in tropical lowlands, because it does not require low temperatures and is highly adaptable. However, production is limited, because the fruit is of poor quality. Furthermore, Japanese pear cultivars have been introduced to Taiwan, and have been successfully grown on farms along the Central East-west Cross Highway since 1958. Although Japanese pear cultivars have fruit with a more appealing appearance and of better quality than `Hungshan' pears, their requirement for low temperatures for chilling has limited their production to areas 1,600 m or more above the sea level. TARI scientists saw the problem, and began a cross breeding program in 1975 to improve the quality for Hungshan pears.

The cultivar `Hungshan' was crossed with Japanese cultivars at both high elevations and in lowland orchards. Hybrid seeds were incubated at 5oC soon after being extracted from the fruit and sterilized with fungicide. About 90% of seeds germinated during the 2-3 months' incubation. All germinated seeds were transferred to small polythene bags, and kept in a shade house for a period of one month. Young plants were then transplanted to the breeding orchard, with spacing of 4 x 1 m. The TARI breeding orchard is located at 24oN, 100 m above sea level. Liquid fertilizer at a low concentration was supplied periodically, to stimulate continuous and rapid growth of the young plants, and thus shorten the juvenile period from 7 years to 4 years.

A preliminary selection was made as soon as the trees started to bloom and set fruit. Hybrid progenies of good quality and adaptability were reserved for further observation and selection. The particularly promising selections were finally grafted onto local `Hungshan' cultivars, in order to evaluate their climatic adaptability, fruit quality and yield. Currently, three promising selections, SH-29, SH-33 and SH-78, all Shinseiki/Hungshan crosses, have performed well in contract farmers' orchards at an elevation of 100-400 m above sea level. The farmers concerned are confident of the performance of the selections, and have begun to multiply the trees themselves to establish new plantings. There are a number of other farmers also interested in testing these new selections.

The same story is true of peach. The fruit of native peach cultivars grown in the tropical lowland area are small in size, and poor in shape and quality, with hard flesh. The temperate juicy peach cultivars, which need chilling at low temperatures, can be grown only in areas 1,500 _ 2,000 m above sea level, but produce large free-stone fruit of good quality. TARI scientists selected seven high quality peach cultivars which needed little chilling from more than 50 introductions. The seven selected cultivars were Flordagold, Flordaking, Flordared, Cristal, Tutu, Premier ant Talisman. All were grafted onto bearing native peach trees, for quick evaluation of their performance in farmers' lowland orchards. After only one year of testing, farmers quickly judged with confidence that these juicy peach cultivars could be successfully grown for a good profit, so they began to propagate them themselves for commercial planting. Requests are now coming into TARI for seedlings. We can only supply a limited number of seedlings, although continuous propagation in TARI's nursery has been accelerated.

Biological Control of Coconut Leaf Beetle, Brontispa Longissima

The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is grown on the east coast and southwest areas of Taiwan. The number of coconut trees planted in 1984 was estimated to be 600,000.

The coconut leaf beetle, Brontispa longissima Gestro, was first found in Pingtung in 1975. Later, it spread north and east to Hualien and Taitung, and has since become a serious pest to coconut palms. Since coconut trees are tall, and usually planted along highways and around fishponds, the use of chemical pesticides to control this pest is economically impractical and environmentally unsafe. Therefore, biological control was considered to be the best approach to solving this pest problem.

TARI scientists (Chiu et al. 1985) searched for effective biological control agents, and found that the larval and pupal parasite, Tetratichus brontispae (Fern.) was effective in the Pacific region. We then introduced the species from Guam in 1983. After careful study and propagation in the quarantine laboratory at TARI, field releases of T. Brontispae were carried out at Chen-chin-hu (Kaohsiung) (10 releases of 11,456 adults) and Lin-bien (Pingtung) (seven releases of 4,881 adults) in 1984. The percentage of parasitism recorded from field recoveries made in Chen-chin-hu and Lin-bien were 21.2 _ 79.2% and 9.3 -36.2%, respectively.

The population dynamics of the coconut leaf beetle, based on a comparison of the pre- and post-release data, showed that the population densities of the coconut leaf beetle in Chen-chin-hu decreased from 60 _ 100 larvae per tree to less than 30 larvae/tree. A similar trend of population fluctuations at a much lower level was also observed for adults. However, the parasite was less effective in Lin-bien ( Fig. 1(1049) and Fig. 2(971)).

The ability of T. brontispae to disperse under field conditions was demonstrated when it was repeatedly recorded on coconut trees in neighbouring townships 2 _ 8 km away from the release site in Chen-chin-hu. It was also observed that new leaves are growing out from the injured trees. All these facts indicate that T. brontispae is now well established in Taiwan, and is gradually dispersing on its own accord into coconut growing areas. It also indicates that T. brontispae is an effective biological control agent of coconut leaf beetle.

The program on the biological control of coconut leaf beetle by the parasite T. brontispae is still going on at TARI. The most interesting feature is that farmers in the coconut growing areas also kept constant watch on the effectiveness of the control measure. When they found it to be useful, they wrote to TARI asking for more parasites to be released over a wider area, and have also promised to give any necessary assistance to TARI scientists for the release.

Factors Contributing to Technology Transfer

New technology developed by agricultural research does not always benefit farmers. This is true even in developed countries with larger farms, and is particularly true in countries in the Asian and Pacific region, with small family farms. We are fortunate that in Taiwan, the gap between research and farms is relatively farms is relatively narrow. Sometimes, intelligent farmers even generate a demand for new technology. The four examples given in this paper clearly indicate that there was not much difficulty in transferring most technology, except for the change in cropping systems involving the use of new corn cultivar, Tainung 351. The success, in my personal view, can be attributed to the following factors:

1. Institutions, Policies and Incentives Advantageous for Technology Transfer

Technology will not transfer itself from the research laboratory to farmers. It must be accompanied by suitable institutions, policies and incentives, which make it advantageous for technology to be adopted. The guaranteed rice price system in Taiwan is a government policy which acts as an incentive to encourage farmers to grow more rice. This system, along with the recommended technology, is very effective in increasing rice production, while the poor operation of purchasing system of corn run by the Farmers' Association affected the rice conversion project, and is an example of institutional failure.

2. Farmers' Education and Skills

New technology is becoming more and more complex to use. For instance, the operation of farm machine equipment, and the use of modern machinery and pesticides to control insects and diseases, all require a high level of education and considerable skill. The widespread adoption of rice cultivar Tainung 67 was mainly because of its resistance to lodging, which made it suitable for mechanical harvesting. This world be impossible if farmers were not able to operate rice combines.

3. No Immediate Risk Perceived

Farmers are generally conservative. New technology which enhances production but also involves risk is not likely to be accepted by farmers. The growing of corn as a substitute for the second rice crop increases the risk of natural hazards, so that framers hesitated to accept the substitution regardless of incentives.

4. Impact of Changing Farming Systems on Farm Profitability

The rice conversion program is a government policy. Although its implementation was discussed at length in order for the program to be accepted by farmers, the change in cropping system from rice-rice-winter-crop to rice-corn, without considering the three month fallow after the first rice crop, greatly affected the farmer's profit from any one piece of land. This oversight became the major constraint to the program.

5. Farming As an Agri-Business

In Taiwan, farming is no longer just for subsistence, but has become an agri-business. Farmers are constantly seeking for new technology, from which higher profit can be generated. They consider the economic inputs, the type of output, and whether they can market their produce. The easy acceptance of the new heat-tolerant pear and juicy peach was simply because these two fruits were expected to bring good prices when introduced into the market as new products.


  • Chiu, S.C., P.Y. Lai, B.W. Chen, Z.C. Chen & J.F. Shiau. 1985. Introduction, propagation, and liberation of pupal parasite, Tetrastichus brontispae, for the control of the coconut leaf liberation of a pupal parasite, Tetrasticus brontispae, for the control of the coconut leaf beetle, Brontispa longissima in Taiwan. J. Agri. Res. China 34,2. (In press).
  • Huang, C.S. 1984. A review of rice variety, Tainung 67, five-years after release. Taiwan Agri. 20: 18-27. (In Chinese).
  • Lee, T.C., H. Wan and W.S. Lu. 1984. A single cross hybrid corn, Tainung 351. Mimmeographed paper, TARI. Pp. 1-8. (In Chinese).
  • MOEA, TPG & CAPD. 1983. Six-year rice project-rice production and rice field diversion. Mimmeographed paper. Council Agri. Planning & Develop. Taiwan. Pp. 1-17.
  • Swindale, L.D. 1981. The lateral transfer of agricultural technology. Agri. Res. Management Asia. Vol. 3: 277-284. SEARCA, Los Banos, Philippines.
  • Taiwan Prov. Dept. Agri. & Forestry. 1984. Agricultural Statistics. Chung Hsing Village, Nantou. Taiwan, ROC.


  • Q. What do you mean by a `Guaranteed Price'? How is this imposed on middlemen, and how is it implemented?
  • A. The guaranteed price is the price paid by the government when it purchases produce through the farmers' associations. No middlemen are involved.
  • Q. How do you market your agricultural produce? Is it all bought directly by the government?
  • A. No, not all products are purchased by the government, only a few selected crops such as soybeans, rice and corn. The government has its own marketing outlets, both for domestic consumption and for export. If there is no markets for the products in question, the farmers are encouraged to diversify production.
  • Q. Now that your government is attempting to reduce rice production, will you discontinue the guaranteed price for rice?
  • A. No, the government will continue with the guaranteed price for rice, to avoid any increase in price.
  • Q. It seems that farmers' associations in Taiwan are effective channels of technology transfer. How does Taiwan keep them viable?
  • A. Farmers' associations in Taiwan have several departments, to cover e.g. credit, purchase of farm inputs, extension etc. The farmers' associations through its normal operations, particularly credit, make money which the farmers' association uses to maintain and improve its services. Farmers' associations are financially self-supporting, funded by their own revenues: they obtain only a nominal funding from the government.
  • Q. Please tell us more about your agricultural financing and credit system?
  • A. The government does not generally provide agricultural financing. Nearly all the money invested into agriculture comes from the farmers' associations.
  • Q. What is the average income of farmers in Taiwan?
  • A. About NT$255,000 per annum, or US$6,375. However, about 90% of farmers are part-time and earn money off the farm, hence their higher incomes.
  • Q. How did you produce the parasite used against coconut beetle?
  • A. We reared them in the laboratory. There was no artificial medium used for rearing the coconut beetles.

Index of Images

Figure 1 Fluctuations in Population Densities of Coconut Beetles in Chen-Chin-Hu

Figure 1 Fluctuations in Population Densities of Coconut Beetles in Chen-Chin-Hu

Figure 2 Fluctuations in Population Densities of Coconut Beetles in Lin-Bien

Figure 2 Fluctuations in Population Densities of Coconut Beetles in Lin-Bien

Table 1 The Yield of Major Crops in 1952 and 1983 in Taiwan (KG/Ha)

Table 1 The Yield of Major Crops in 1952 and 1983 in Taiwan (KG/Ha)

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