What Single Trait Drives Research?


I wish to challenge your opinion on a subject. If I asked you to tell me the single most important trait that drives all research what would you select? I will not try to fill the page with potential answers. Each, I have no doubt, would be worthy of its selection. For the purpose of this discussion, I will submit it is the ability to reduce or replace human labor. In earlier times’ it was an effort to replace animal labor that was at the top of this list as we moved away from “horse power” towards mechanical generated power.

Our ability to feed this planet, that seems to not be able to put a stop on population growth, has been a challenge ever since the first farm at the Garden of Eden. Man has toiled to feed his family first before any other need. Today is really no different. It is because we are so incredibly efficient that over 90% of the global population can tend to other needs. Today the same challenge is to how to produce more with fewer man hours.

So, the single driving trait behind all new research is how to accomplish more with fewer man hours. Farm labor in current times is at an all-time critically low level. We have the same or greater need to feed this growing planet’s population but fewer hands seem willing to participate in the task. This leads researchers to help us reduce hand labor. In apple production we see this in efforts to chemically thin our crops and reduce hand thinning. One might suggest that the modern apple orchard is here to only increase production of high quality fruit. I would argue it also goes to reduced handling of marginal fruit and reduces labor in orchard maintenance (pruning).

The Civil War, one might argue, was a result of man’s inability to replace hand labor in the cotton fields. One has to wonder if the cotton gin and modern combine were available would our history books been written differently. Modern fruit packing lines are able to replace many hands and increase accuracy of finished pack. Technology has replaced labor. Equal improvements are being made outside of the packing houses. As the cost and difficulty in finding ready hands to work on our farms continues we will rely on research to help us bridge this need.

The remarkable thing about researchers is that given a problem they seem to always find a solution. Today most farms feel farm labor is the limiting factor. I am certain that our researchers are tuned to this and are working behind closed doors to help us meet this challenge. It is interesting that we first must have a problem to inspire us to find a solution

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