© 2016 Corporación Colombiana de Investigación Agropecuaria. The rural extension services have contributed to agricultural development. However, there is a gap between the knowledge available and its adoption by farmers, which these services have not been able to reduce substantially. Therefore, the object of this study was to analyze research trends in rural extension to identify approaches that contribute to making recommendations for rural extension services, aimed at developing self-management abilities in rural communities. The study of extension problems, innovation networks, social network analysis, partnership and knowledge sharing were identified as main rural extension research trends. These results led to the conclusion that a rural extension approach for development of self-management capabilities should include bottom-up participative planning, knowledge management, social capital development, considering territory specificities and consolidation of exchange networks of knowledge and innovations.