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How Common Crop Yield Measures Misrepresent Productivity among Smallholder Farmers

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  • Reynolds, Travis W.
  • Anderson, C. Leigh
  • Slakie, Elysia
  • Gugerty, Mary Kay

Abstract

Common estimates of agricultural productivity rely upon crude measures of crop yield, typically defined as the weight of a crop harvested divided by the area harvested. But this common yield measure poorly reflects performance among farm systems combining multiple crops in one area (e.g., intercropping), and also ignores the possibility that farmers might lose crop area between planting and harvest (e.g., partial crop failure). Drawing on detailed plot-level data from Tanzania’s National Panel Survey, this paper contrasts measures of smallholder productivity using production per hectare harvested and production per hectare planted. Yield by area planted differs significantly from yield by area harvested, particularly for smaller farms and female-headed households. OLS regression further reveals different demographic and management-related drivers of variability in yield gains – and thus different implications for policy and development interventions – depending on the yield measurement used. Findings suggest a need to better specify “yield” to more effectively guide agricultural development efforts.

Suggested Citation

  • Reynolds, Travis W. & Anderson, C. Leigh & Slakie, Elysia & Gugerty, Mary Kay, 2015. "How Common Crop Yield Measures Misrepresent Productivity among Smallholder Farmers," 2015 Conference, August 9-14, 2015, Milan, Italy 212485, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:iaae15:212485
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.212485
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    1. Gashaw Tadesse Abate & Tanguy Bernard & Alan de Brauw & Nicholas Minot, 2018. "The impact of the use of new technologies on farmers’ wheat yield in Ethiopia: evidence from a randomized control trial," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 49(4), pages 409-421, July.
    2. van Dijk, Michiel & Morley, Tomas & van Loon, Marloes & Reidsma, Pytrik & Tesfaye, Kindie & van Ittersum, Martin K., 2020. "Reducing the maize yield gap in Ethiopia: Decomposition and policy simulation," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 183(C).
    3. van Dijk, Michiel & Morley, Tom & Jongeneel, Roel & van Ittersum, Martin & Reidsma, Pytrik & Ruben, Ruerd, 2017. "Disentangling agronomic and economic yield gaps: An integrated framework and application," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 154(C), pages 90-99.
    4. Ayala Wineman & C. Leigh Anderson & Travis W. Reynolds & Pierre Biscaye, 2019. "Methods of crop yield measurement on multi-cropped plots: Examples from Tanzania," Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food, Springer;The International Society for Plant Pathology, vol. 11(6), pages 1257-1273, December.

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    Crop Production/Industries; Farm Management;

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