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Pest management practices depend on who advises farmers

Image: Couleur, Cherry sweet fruit, Pixabay, Pixabay Licence

This paper finds that the pest management choices of farmers in Switzerland depend on whether they are advised by public or private extension services (i.e. providers of technical information to farmers). In a survey of 733 Swiss fruit growers dealing with fruit fly infestations, those advised by public extension services were 9-10% more likely to use preventative measures such as nets, while those advised by private extension services were 8-9% more likely to use synthetic insecticides.

Public extension services are those funded by the government, including Agroscope, the Swiss Centre of Excellence for Agricultural Research. Private extension services are provided by plant protection and agricultural input companies.

The authors argue that pesticide use should be limited when feasible because of its impacts of human and environmental health. To help achieve this, they say, public extension services should be widely available to farmers, and that policy design should pay attention to making preventative pest management strategies cost-effective. 



Does it matter whether farmers receive advice on pest management strategies from public or from private (pesticide company affiliated) extension services? We use survey data from 733 Swiss fruit growers who are currently contending with an infestation by an invasive pest, the fruit fly Drosophila Suzukii. We find that farmers who are advised by public extension services are more likely (+9–10%) to use preventive measures (e.g. nets) while farmers who are advised by private extension services are more likely (+8–9%) to use synthetic insecticides. These results are robust to the inclusion of various covariates, ways to cluster standard errors, and inverse probability weighting. We also show that our results are unlikely to be driven by omitted variable bias. Our findings have implications for the current debates on both the ongoing privatisation of agricultural extension and concerns regarding negative environmental and health externalities of pesticide use.



Wuepper, D., Roleff, N. and Finger, R., 2020. Does it matter who advises farmers? Pest management choices with public and private extension. Food Policy, p.101995.


Read the full paper here. See also the Table explainer Food systems and contributions to other environmental problems.

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