The role of extension services and technology adoption in farm sustainability
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The objective of this PhD thesis is to assess the role of extension services and technology adoption in enhancing farm sustainability with the goal of informing the debate on how to achieve sustainable intensification. Based on Irish farm-level data, the thesis presents three separate analyses embodied in the technology adoption and extension literature. The first analysis explores the potential of a farm technology, i.e., milk recording, in simultaneously enhancing the economic, environmental, and social dimensions of farm sustainability. Using propensity score matching and robustness checks, the findings reveal that milk recording can lead to economic and social benefits. Conversely, milk recording does not impact farm environmental sustainability. The second analysis examines pathways between extension participation, farm management, and economic and environmental sustainability. Farm management is represented by grassland management and reproductive efficiency. Seemingly unrelated regressions models and treatment-effects bounds are estimated to achieve partial identification. The results show that extension has a positive impact on reproductive efficiency but does not affect grassland management. Improving extension effectiveness on these components of dairy management could result in economic gains, while the effect on environmental sustainability is mixed. The third analysis compares farmer cohorts engaging or not with mixed public-private and private extension services. Differences in farm and farmers’ characteristics are analysed with a mixed logit model, while farm economic and environmental sustainability is compared based on linear regression models. The findings show that farm size, dairy specialisation, and farm management vary across cohorts. Extension is associated with higher economic performance but does not affect environmental sustainability. No significant differences are found between mixed public-private and private extension participants for both sustainability dimensions.