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The rise and fall of public sector plant breeding in the United Kingdom: a causal chain model of basic and applied research and diffusion

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  • Thirtle, C.
  • Bottomley, P.
  • Palladino, P.
  • Schimmelpfennig, D.
  • Townsend, R.

Abstract

This paper examines the barley and wheat breeding programmes of the Plant Breeding Institute (PBI), which was the most successful public plant breeding institute in the UK, until privatization in 1987. The PBI's shares in barley and wheat seed sales are explained, showing that the success with barley was largely a matter of serendipity, whereas the wheat programme followed a more normal pattern. For wheat, the causal chain, or recursive, model decomposes the well-documented link between research expenditures and increases in agricultural productivity into three stages. These are the effects of R&D expenditures on basic research output, measured by publications, the effect of publications and applied R&D expenditures on trial plot yields, and the diffusion of the trial plot technologies, which raises yields on farms. Applying the model to the PBI's wheat varieties allows estimation of the lag structures. In contrast to the results for aggregate agricultural research, for a single plant breeding programme alone there is a considerable lead time before there is any response, followed by a lag distribution only a few years long. The returns to the R&D investments are calculated from the causal chain model, from single equation estimates and by evaluating the yield advantage of the PBI varieties. All three approaches give consistent results, which show that the returns to barley and wheat alone were sufficient to support the entire PBI budget and still give rates of return to applied research of between 14 and 25%. The return to the basic science expenditures of the John Innes Institute has a lower bound of 17%, but must have been even higher than for the PBI if the other Institutes were taken into account. The paper concludes by commenting on the effects of the privatization of the PBI. © 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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Suggested Citation

  • Thirtle, C. & Bottomley, P. & Palladino, P. & Schimmelpfennig, D. & Townsend, R., 1998. "The rise and fall of public sector plant breeding in the United Kingdom: a causal chain model of basic and applied research and diffusion," Agricultural Economics, Blackwell, vol. 19(1-2), pages 127-143, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agecon:v:19:y:1998:i:1-2:p:127-143
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sargan, John Denis & Bhargava, Alok, 1983. "Testing Residuals from Least Squares Regression for Being Generated by the Gaussian Random Walk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(1), pages 153-174, January.
    2. Dickey, David A & Fuller, Wayne A, 1981. "Likelihood Ratio Statistics for Autoregressive Time Series with a Unit Root," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 1057-1072, June.
    3. Paolo Palladino, 1996. "Science, technology, and the economy: plant breeding in Great Britain, 1920-1970," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 49(1), pages 116-136, February.
    4. Yougesh Khatri & Colin Thirtle, 1996. "Supply And Demand Functions For Uk Agriculture: Biases Of Technical Change And The Returns To Public R&D," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(1-4), pages 338-354.
    5. Johansen, Soren, 1988. "Statistical analysis of cointegration vectors," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 12(2-3), pages 231-254.
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    Cited by:

    1. Malla, Stavroula & Gray, Richard S., 2002. "Crop Research Incentives in a Privatized Industry: A Stochastic Approach," 2002 International Congress, August 28-31, 2002, Zaragoza, Spain 24936, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    2. Kelvin Balcombe & Alastair Bailey & Iain Fraser, 2005. "Measuring the impact of R&D on Productivity from a Econometric Time Series Perspective," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 49-72, September.
    3. Malla, Stavroula & Gray, Richard S., 2001. "An Analytical And Empirical Analysis Of The Private Biotech R&D Incentives," 2001 Annual meeting, August 5-8, Chicago, IL 20544, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    4. Kingwell, Ross S., 2003. "Institutional change and plant variety provision in Australia," 2003 Conference (47th), February 12-14, 2003, Fremantle, Australia 57905, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
    5. Townsend, Robert & Thirtle, Colin, 2001. "Is livestock research unproductive? Separating health maintenance from improvement research," Agricultural Economics of Agricultural Economists, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 25(2-3), September.
    6. Lindner, Robert K., 2004. "Economic Issues for Plant Breeding - Public Funding and Private Ownership," Australasian Agribusiness Review, University of Melbourne, Melbourne School of Land and Environment, vol. 12.
    7. Kingwell, Ross S., 2005. "Institutional Change and Plant Variety Provisions in Australia," Australasian Agribusiness Review, University of Melbourne, Melbourne School of Land and Environment, vol. 13.
    8. Thirtle, Colin G. & Srinivasan, Chittur S. & Heisey, Paul W., 2001. "Public Sector Plant Breeding In A Privatizing World," Agricultural Information Bulletins 33775, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    9. Roberto Esposti & Pierpaolo Pierani, 2003. "Building the Knowledge Stock: Lags, Depreciation, and Uncertainty in R&D Investment and Link with Productivity Growth," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 19(1), pages 33-58, January.

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