The Genetic and Economic Impact of the University of Arkansas's Rice Breeding Program: 1983-2007

By Nalley, L. Lanier; Moldenhauer, Karen A. et al. | Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, February 2011 | Go to article overview

The Genetic and Economic Impact of the University of Arkansas's Rice Breeding Program: 1983-2007


Nalley, L. Lanier, Moldenhauer, Karen A., Lyman, Nate, Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics


This study estimates the proportion of rice yield increase in University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture's (UofA) released rice cultivars that are attributable to genetic improvements through the University's breeding program. Test plot data from eight UofA experiment stations were used to quantify the yield increases and potential yield growth decreases over time. In addition to quantifying the yield and yield variance evolution at the UofA, this study also calculates the economic benefits of the UofA rice breeding program. Results indicated that by releasing modern rice cultivars, the UofA rice breeding program increased average producer yield by 0.68 bu/ac annually. During the last decade, 1997-2007, the average annual economic benefits were 34.3 million (2007) dollars. When accounting for the spillover of UofA rice varieties to neighboring states the average annual economic benefit of the breeding program increases to 46.7 million (2007) dollars.

Key Words: economic impact of technological change, Just and Pope, public rice breeding

JEL Classifications: O13, O32, Q16

Public research in rice breeding has resulted in higher yields for Arkansas rice producers over the past three decades. This study measures the genetic and economic impact of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture's (U of A) rice breeding program over the last 24 years (1983-2007). Yield increases for rice varieties released by the UofA breeding program were quantified, holding growing conditions, grain length, climatic conditions, and other agronomic improvements in production constant. The yield differential for each rice variety included in the UofA's annual Arkansas Rice Performance Trials (ARPT) was quantified to isolate the percentage of yield enhancement attributable solely to the genetic improvement at the rice breeding program at the University of Arkansas. The main objective of this study was to determine the proportion of the increases in yield of University of Arkansas-released rice cultivars attributable to genetic improvements. Test plot data from eight University run experiment stations were used to quantify the yield increases and potential yield growth decreases over time. Furthermore, this study set out to determine whether modern rice cultivars released by the UofA have influenced yield variability during the same 24-year period. Yield variation may have decreased due to genetic enhancements through improved tolerance to rice blast and other pathogens, resulting in higher levels of yield stability

In addition to quantifying the yield and yield variance evolution at the University of Arkansas' rice breeding program, the third objective of this study was to calculate the economic benefits of the UofA's rice breeding program for rice to local producers in Arkansas and the surrounding states that sow UofA varieties. This is important for formulating future policy decisions, given the recent trend of budget cuts at public institutions.

Measurements of the Benefits of the UofA Rice Breeding Program

The methodology used to calculate the economic benefits of the Arkansas rice breeding program followed an extensive literature on the economic impacts of agricultural research, as summarized by Huffman and Evenson (2006) and Alston, Norton, and Pardey (1995). Previous evaluations of breeding programs have been exemplified in studies by Nalley, Barkley, and Chumley (2008); Nalley et al. (2008); Brennan (1984, 1989a); Byerlee and Traxler (1995); and Barkley (1997). Brennan (1989b) goes further by evaluating the breeding programs at different stages in their lives.

The first step in evaluating the economic impact of the Arkansas rice breeding program was to measure the increase in yields from the genetic improvement of rice, holding all other production parameters constant. This was accomplished by applying the methodology of Feyerherm, Paulsen, and Sebaugh (1984) to calculate the relative yields for each variety with data from the ARPT for rice varieties. …

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