The impact of formal agricultural education on farm level innovation and management practices

C. O’Donoghue, K. Heanue*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Knowledge transfer in agriculture or what is conventionally known as agricultural extension is typically based on two activities: the delivery of education and the provision of advisory services. Formal agricultural education levels have steadily improved over time in Ireland and this growth in the human capital of the agricultural sector is a key aspect of the “smart” agenda set out in National Agricultural Development Strategies. In this paper we focus on the impact of one aspect of agricultural knowledge transfer process by considering the relationship between participation in formal agricultural education, farm level income outcomes and the pathways by which these outcomes are realised via innovation and management practice. In doing so, we contribute to the branch of the wider technology transfer literature concerned with identifying the impact of knowledge transfer activities and also understanding the role of competence building within knowledge transfer processes. Formal agricultural education can impact private returns in terms of improved technical and allocative efficiency. In most Irish agricultural sectors, we find a positive return to agricultural education and in particular a positive relationship in relation to technical efficiency in terms of improved yields. The result is, however, weak in the tillage sector. Evidence of improved allocative efficiency is in general weak, except for the commercial dairy sector. We do, however, find that earlier adopters of innovations or best management practice are more likely to have formal agricultural education. This may be due to reduced risk aversion, higher skills and better decision making. However, as mature technologies and management practices become mainstream across many farmer types, this relationship does not hold.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)844-863
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Technology Transfer
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018

JEL classifications

  • o13 - "Economic Development: Agriculture; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Other Primary Products"
  • q16 - "Agricultural R&D; Agricultural Technology; Biofuels; Agricultural Extension Services"
  • o31 - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
  • i25 - Education and Economic Development


  • Agricultural education
  • Innovation
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Returns to education
  • Decision making
  • Efficiency
  • Knowledge management
  • Technology transfer
  • Agricultural development
  • Allocative efficiency
  • Best management practices
  • Competence building
  • Management practices
  • Technical efficiency
  • Agriculture

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