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Underground Knowledge: Estimating the Impact of Soil Information Transfers through Experimental Auctions

Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 12:20pm to 1:10pm

Emerson, 135

David Murphy is a PhD Candidate in the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University and is currently on the job market. His work focuses on agriculture and environmental issues in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially on issues related to soil degradation, food insecurity, and gender disparity. The research in his dissertation was collected in 2016 from western Kenya, where he utilized "lab-in-the-field" experimental methods to collect farmer demands for fertilizers. David served two years in the Peace Corps in Armenia, completed his undergraduate work at State University of New York at Geneseo, and received his Masters degree at the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

In most emerging economies of sub-Saharan Africa, farmers often do not have sufficient information about their soil nutrient levels to make profit maximizing choices about fertilizer usage. This often leads them to choose sub-optimal combinations of inputs for their particular soil, potentially leading to further soil degradation, poor crop yields, and food insecurity. Using a unique dataset that includes data from experimental auctions for agricultural inputs in Kenya, this study tests whether providing soil test information and fertilizer recommendations to farmers affects their behavior and ability to optimize their input choices. Packages of both inorganic and organic inputs were auctioned, with farmers divided into several soil fertility information treatments and a control group. Using triple difference estimation methods, the results from this study show that providing soil fertility information to farmers has significant effects on their demands for agricultural inputs, especially when differences between men and women are considered. Our study suggests that soil information transfers can significantly affect fertilizer optimization among farmers, and if implemented on a larger scale, can potentially be a cost-effective method to increase crop yields in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Event Type



Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, International Programs



Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Canaan Eliza Zeiders Boyer


David Murphy

Speaker Affiliation

Applied Economics and Management, Dyson School

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