The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 844–863 | Cite as

The impact of formal agricultural education on farm level innovation and management practices

  • Cathal O’Donoghue
  • Kevin Heanue


Knowledge transfer in agriculture or what is conventionally known as agricultural extension is typically based on two activities: the delivery of education and the provision of advisory services. Formal agricultural education levels have steadily improved over time in Ireland and this growth in the human capital of the agricultural sector is a key aspect of the “smart” agenda set out in National Agricultural Development Strategies. In this paper we focus on the impact of one aspect of agricultural knowledge transfer process by considering the relationship between participation in formal agricultural education, farm level income outcomes and the pathways by which these outcomes are realised via innovation and management practice. In doing so, we contribute to the branch of the wider technology transfer literature concerned with identifying the impact of knowledge transfer activities and also understanding the role of competence building within knowledge transfer processes. Formal agricultural education can impact private returns in terms of improved technical and allocative efficiency. In most Irish agricultural sectors, we find a positive return to agricultural education and in particular a positive relationship in relation to technical efficiency in terms of improved yields. The result is, however, weak in the tillage sector. Evidence of improved allocative efficiency is in general weak, except for the commercial dairy sector. We do, however, find that earlier adopters of innovations or best management practice are more likely to have formal agricultural education. This may be due to reduced risk aversion, higher skills and better decision making. However, as mature technologies and management practices become mainstream across many farmer types, this relationship does not hold.


Agricultural education Innovation Knowledge transfer Returns to education 

JEL Classification

I21 O30 I26 


  1. Ali, M., & Byerlee, D. (1991). Economic efficiency of small farmers in a changing world: A survey of recent evidence. Journal of International Development, 3, 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Azhar, R. A. (1991). Education and technical efficiency during the green revolution in Pakistan. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 39(3), 651–665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Becker, G. S. (1962). Investment in human capital: A theoretical analysis. The Journal of Political Economy, 70(5), 9–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bogue, P. (2013). Impact of participation in Teagasc dairy discussion groups, Broadmore Research.Google Scholar
  5. Connolly, L., Kinsella, A., Quinlan, G., & Moran, B. (2010). National farm survey. Athenry, Ireland: Teagasc, Rural Economy Research Centre.Google Scholar
  6. Department of Agriculture, and Food and the Marine. (2010). The food harvest 2020: A vision for Irish agri-food and fisheries. Dublin: Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food.Google Scholar
  7. Department of Agriculture, and Food and the Marine. (2015). Local roots global reach. Food wise 2025. A 10-year vision for the Irish agri-food industry. Dublin: Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food.Google Scholar
  8. EC. (2005). EU farm economics overview report. Brussels: Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development.Google Scholar
  9. Feller, I. (1984). Reconsideration of the agricultural transfer model. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 8(2), 47–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Griliches, Z. (1957). Hybrid corn: An exploration in the economics of technological change. Econometrica, 25, 501–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hennessy, T., & Heanue, K. (2012). Quantifying the effect of discussion group membership on technology adoption and farm profit on dairy farms. Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, 18(1), 41–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Huffman, W. E. (1999). Human capital: Education and agriculture. In B. L. Gardner & G. C. Rausser (Eds.), Handbook of agricultural economics (pp. 333–381). Amsterdam: Elsevier Science.Google Scholar
  13. Knight, J., Weir, S., & Woldehanna, T. (2003). The role of education in facilitating risk-taking and innovation in agriculture. Journal of Development Studies, 39(6), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kochenkova, A., Grimaldi, R., & Munari, F. (2016). Public policy measures in support of knowledge transfer activities: A review of academic literature. Journal of Technology Transfer, 41, 407–429. doi: 10.1007/s10961-015-9416-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lin, J. Y. (1991). Education and innovation adoption in agriculture: Evidence from hybrid rice in China. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 73(3), 713–723.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Lockheed, E., Jamison, T., & Lau, L. (1980). Farmer education and farm efficiency: A survey. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 29(1), 37–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. McFall, G. D., & McKelvey, J. P. (1989). The cooperative extension service: A model for technology transfer. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 14(1), 40–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Nelson, R. R., & Phelps, E. S. (1966). Investment in humans, technological diffusion, and economic growth. The American Economic Review, 56(1/2), 69–75.Google Scholar
  19. Phillips, J. M. (1994). Farmer education and farmer efficiency: A meta-analysis. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 43(1), 149–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Reimers, M., & Klasen, S. (2011). Revisiting the role of education for agricultural productivity, discussion paper no. 90, Courant Research Centre, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany (August): A revised version of this paper is forthcoming in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics (AJAE).Google Scholar
  21. Rigou, A., & Koutsouris, A. (2011). Agricultural training and entrepreneurship: The case of ‘Young Farmers’ in a Greek Prefecture. In 20th European seminar of extension education privatepublic partnerships for advisory services in Europe. Proceedings of the 20th ESEE, JTO School of Management, Kirkkonummi, Finland. ISBN 978-951-9411-54-5.Google Scholar
  22. Rogers, E. M. (1962). Diffusion of innovations (1st ed.). New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  23. Schultz, T. W. (1975). The value of the ability to deal with disequilibria. Journal of Economic Literature, 13(3), 827–846.Google Scholar
  24. Weir, S., & Knight, J. (2004). Externality effects of education: Dynamics of the adoption and diffusion of an innovation in rural Ethiopia. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 53(1), 93–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Welch, F. (1970). Education in production. The Journal of Political Economy, 78(1), 35–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wolek, F. W. (1985). Transferring federal technology in agriculture. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 9(2), 57–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Wozniak, G. D. (1987). Human capital, information and the early adoption of new technology. Journal of Human Resources, 2(1), 101–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Zahra, S., & George, G. (2002). Absorptive capacity: A review, reconceptualisation, and extension. Academy of Management Review, 27, 185–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National University of Ireland, Galway and Rural Economy and Development ProgrammeTeagascAthenryIreland
  2. 2.Evaluation UnitTeagascAthenryIreland

Personalised recommendations