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Assessment of Pesticide Use Reduction Strategies for Thai Highland Agriculture

Combining Econometrics and Agent-based Modelling


Christian Grovermann

This study combines econometrics and agent-based modelling to evaluate the impacts of a range of pesticide use reduction strategies in the context of Thai highland agriculture. Pesticide productivity and pesticide overuse are quantified, while determinants of the adoption of innovations in pesticide use reduction are estimated. On that basis, the Mathematical Programming-based Multi Agent System (MPMAS), a bio-economic simulation model, is used to ex-ante assess the adoption of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in combination with a series of market-based instruments that boost the transition to more sustainable pest control practices. The MPMAS simulation results demonstrate that, over five years, it is possible to bring down levels of pesticide use significantly without income trade-offs for farm agents. A proportional tax, increasing the price of synthetic pesticides by 50% on average, together with bio-pesticide subsidies for IPM proves to be the most cost-effective and practicable policy package. IPM practices are adopted by up to 75% of farm agents and pesticide use reductions reach up to 34%.
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The rapid growth in pesticide use has become a significant problem for Thailand, as it has in many other developing countries with intensifying agricultural activities. Risks to farmers’ health during application and picking, the exposure of consumers to chemical residues on food, as well as the contamination of water bodies and the decline in ecosystem resilience, are among the consequences of heavy pesticide use in Thailand. Especially in the north of the country, the adoption of high-value fruit and vegetable crops has caused farmers to heavily rely on agrochemicals, with the use of highly toxic pesticides now being widespread.

For several decades policy-makers in Thailand have provided an environment favourable to the spread of synthetic pesticide use. Countervailing efforts aimed at the diffusion of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) activities since the 1990s and, more recently, the certification of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), have so far had a limited impact. With increased awareness of the negative consequences of heavy pesticide use and its reduction firmly on the political agenda nowadays, more information on the economic conditions needed to reduce the use of pesticides and the policies needed to do so is required.

This research study attempts to fill this knowledge gap and generate new insights on pesticide use, based on the following three objectives. First, it aims to quantify pesticide productivity and pesticide overuse, second, it explores determinants of the adoption of sustainability innovations, and, most importantly, it evaluates the adoption of IPM in combination...

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