Lead: Robert Finger, ETHZ

Aim and scope

We aim to explain farmers’ choices towards low-pesticide or pesticide-free production practices. We study farmers’ transition to reduced or no pesticide use in three case studies in Swiss agriculture: i) low -pesticide grapevine production, e.g. using fungi-resistant varieties  ii) low-pesticide apple production and iii) pesticide-free wheat production. Thus, we focus on production systems between ‘organic’ and ‘conventional’ production that are characterized by massively reduced pesticide use. We aim to reveal determinants and barriers of large-scale adoption of these production systems. We especially focus on the role of down- and upstream actors, economic incentives, policy measures and the role of evidence. For example, we focus on the role of information provision to farmers on their decisions towards low pesticide production systems. We aim to test if and how new information on health and environmental effects of pesticides as well as information on efficacy and costs of specific pest management strategies can trigger changes in farmers’ behavior. We also test the role of interaction among farmers (e.g. neighborhood effects, peer to peer learning) as well as the role of extension for pest management decisions. Furthermore, we also study the role of marketing channels. Our work will provide a coherent conceptual and empirical basis on what determines farmers’ pest management and pesticide use choices. We aim to provide entry points towards effective and efficient policies to reduce risks resulting from pesticide use.


We use large-scale surveys and choice experiments with Swiss farmers in grapevine, apple and wheat production. We focus on all relevant regions in Switzerland, i.e. we conduct surveys in German, French and Italian. The surveys collect information on the current and future pest management practices, and pesticide use. Moreover, we elicit perceptions of risk, costs, and benefits of different strategies, and elicit environmental preferences of farmers as well as time, and risk preferences. We also collect non-cognitive skills such as self-efficacy related to farmers pesticide use decisions. Finally, information on communication and exchange with other farmers and use of extension services is obtained. We use econometric analysis to identify determinants of pesticide use and a wide range of pest management decisions, accounting for farm and farmers characteristics. We use a spatial econometric analysis to identify the role of neighborhood effects and test the relevance of extension services, and effects of peer interaction on pest management decisions. We conduct choice experiments on the top of surveys to identity effective policy measures to facilitate farmers uptake of low- or no-pesticide use practices.

Planned outputs:

We provide quantitative evidence on a wide range of research questions and draw clear conclusions for public and private policies. For example, we show how farmers’ knowledge and perception of environmental and human health effects of pesticides, and their perception of costs and benefits of low- and no-pesticide production practices affect adoption of new, low- or no-pesticide production practices. This provides clear entry points for information and extension services to farmers. Moreover, we show the relevance of marketing channels to facilitate and hinder the large-scale adoption of these innovations.

We do not only provide scientific papers, but also provide blog posts in German and/or French summarizing key policy implications of our papers in https://agrarpolitik-blog.com/. Also, we provide survey participants who wish to receive detailed feedback with individual reports on their position compared to peers within their region.