Technological Change in Crop Yields

Alan P. Ker, Chair and Professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Guelph, presented the Havlicek Memorial Seminar on September 9, 2013 as part of the AEDE Applied Economics Seminar Series. His presentation focused on his recent research with Tor Tolhurst: "Technological Change in Crop Yields."

Abstract: Technological changes in agriculture tend to alter the mass associated with a segment or subpopulation of the yield distribution as opposed to shifting the entire distribution upwards. We propose modeling crop yields using mixtures with embedded trend functions to account for potentially different rates of technological change in different subpopulations of the yield distribution. By doing so we can test some interesting and previously untested hypotheses about the data generating process of yields. For example: (1) is the rate of technological change equivalent across subpopulations; and (2) are the probabilities of subpopulations constant over time? Our results -- technological change is not equivalent across subpopulations and probabilities have not changed significantly over time -- have implications for modeling yields. While we consider the impacts for rating crop insurance contracts, accurate modeling of technological change is relevant to issues such as food sustainability, economic development, feeding a rapidly growing world population, biofuels markets and policy, and climate change.

The Havlicek Memorial Seminar is sponsored by funds from the Havlicek Memorial Fund, which honors Joseph Havlicek, Jr., former AEDE Professor and Chair. Professor Havlicek, who was at different points in his well-accomplished life, a student, a faculty member, a leader and a researcher at Ohio State, focused on price analysis and applied econometrics in his career. The yearly seminar named after him focuses on new research in this field to continue Professor Havlicek’s dedication to this topic of study.


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