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Nudging Farmers Towards Low-pesticide Practices: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Viticulture

AAEA members release new research in JAAEA

Reducing pesticide use and the associated risks is a key policy objective globally. In the European Union and in Switzerland, for example, the ambitious objective is to reduce pesticide use risks by 50% within this decade. Given the large share of pesticides used in grapevine production (ca. 30% from all pesticides sprayed in Switzerland and the European Union), increasing the use of fungus-resistant varieties which require considerably fewer pesticides treatments (around 80% less) may be a key entry point towards reaching this goal.

In the new article “Nudging farmers towards low-pesticide practices: Evidence from a randomized experiment in viticulture” published in the Journal of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (Open Access), Lucca Zachmann, Chloe McCallum, and Robert Finger from the Agricultural Economics and Policy Group at ETH Zurich examine whether providing grapevine growers with personalized information about their use of the most environmentally toxic fungicides changes their intentions to switch to fungus-resistant varieties.

The authors say, “We find that providing personalized information to a large and heterogeneous group has no impact on the intended plantation share. However, when providing farmers with personalized information it is crucial to consider their perceptions about the treatment (i.e. the use of environmentally toxic fungicides) and the outcome (i.e. the plantation of fungus-resistant varieties which require fewer fungicide treatments). Specifically, we find that growers who do not perceive fungus-resistant varieties to be better for the environment compared to traditional varieties report to substantially decrease their land share devoted to fungus-resistant varieties if they were given personalized information about their use of environmentally toxic fungicides (‘boomerang effect’).”

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ABOUT AAEA: Established in 1910, the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) is the leading professional association for agricultural and applied economists, with 2,500 members in more than 60 countries. Members of the AAEA work in academic or government institutions as well as in industry and not-for-profit organizations, and engage in a variety of research, teaching, and outreach activities in the areas of agriculture, the environment, food, health, and international development. The AAEA publishes three journals, the Journal of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (an open access journal), the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, as well as the online magazine Choices and the online open access publication series Applied Economics Teaching Resources. To learn more, visit

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