Policy distortions, farm size, and the overuse of agricultural chemicals in China
AuthorWu, Y; Xi, X; Tang, X; Luo, D; Gu, B; Lam, SK; Vitousek, PM; Chen, D
Source TitleProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA
PublisherNATL ACAD SCIENCES
AffiliationAgriculture and Food Systems
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsWu, Y., Xi, X., Tang, X., Luo, D., Gu, B., Lam, S. K., Vitousek, P. M. & Chen, D. (2018). Policy distortions, farm size, and the overuse of agricultural chemicals in China. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 115 (27), pp.7010-7015. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1806645115.
Access StatusOpen Access
ARC Grant codeARC/DE170100423
Understanding the reasons for overuse of agricultural chemicals is critical to the sustainable development of Chinese agriculture. Using a nationally representative rural household survey from China, we found that farm size is a strong factor that affects the use intensity of agricultural chemicals across farms in China. Statistically, a 1% increase in farm size is associated with a 0.3% and 0.5% decrease in fertilizer and pesticide use per hectare (P < 0.001), respectively, and an almost 1% increase in agricultural labor productivity, while it only leads to a statistically insignificant 0.02% decrease in crop yields. The same pattern was also found using other independently collected data sources from China and an international panel analysis of 74 countries from the 1960s to the 2000s. While economic growth has been associated with increasing farm size in many other countries, in China this relationship has been distorted by land and migration policies, leading to the persistence of small farm size in China. Removing these distortions would decrease agricultural chemical use by 30-50% and the environmental impact of those chemicals by 50% while doubling the total income of all farmers including those who move to urban areas. Removing policy distortions is also likely to complement other remedies to the overuse problem, such as easing farmer's access to modern technologies and knowledge, and improving environmental regulation and enforcement.
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