This summer, I had the opportunity to present the first results of my research project DIVERSGRASS at the 30th International Conference of Agricultural Economists in Vancouver, Canada. During the conference with the theme “New Landscapes and New Mandates for Agriculture”, more than 1000 researchers from around the world gathered, and a wide range of scientific topics were presented. I used the opportunity to gather knowledge within my research area but also to get insights into new topics and methods. Furthermore, the conference presented a great occasion to exchange with other agricultural economists.
My research project, first manuscript and presentation …
Grasslands are an important source of forage for milk and meat production and contribute considerably to our agricultural economy as they cover a large share of the agricultural area. For example, in the European Union, grasslands cover about 33% and in Switzerland, they even represent about 70% of the agricultural area. Previous research found that species diversity positively influences production as well as other ecosystem services. Within our research project, we investigate the value of species diversity from farmers’ perspective using insights from ecology and agricultural economics.
At the conference, I presented work from my first manuscript with the title “Economic benefits from higher species diversity in intensively managed grasslands” (co-authors Nina Buchmann, Andreas Lüscher, and Robert Finger). In the manuscript, we investigate the effect of species diversity on production and production risk from farmers’ perspective. We extend earlier literature by considering not only quantity but also quality of production and we find a positive effect of species diversity on production and production risk in intensively managed grasslands. These results can contribute to a sustainable intensification of grassland-based production. My presentation was followed by a fruitful discussion, which not only helped me with my current manuscript but also gave me input for my next steps …
… Next steps
In the next step of my research, we address the value of species diversity especially in the context of weather risks. More specifically, we focus on economically evaluating the species diversity effect in the event of droughts. The past summer with low precipitation and high temperatures, which caused drought damage to grasslands in many countries, highlights the importance of this investigation. The relevance of researching about risk mitigating management tools for farmers against weather extremes was not only present in the discussion after my presentation but in general at the conference. We will make these and other future results available at our groups’ homepages (Agricultural Economics and Policy and Grassland Sciences) and the Agrarpolitik Blog (in German).
Along with the conference, I had the opportunity to join a conference tour to the Federal Government Dairy Research Center, Agassiz, BC. At the research center, which is also a farm with about 500 cows and that is embedded in the beautiful landscape of British Colombia we learned about the Canadian dairy sector as well as about the ongoing research projects at the center. To me it was interesting to learn about the center’s animal welfare research and especially about the differences between the Canadian and European focus and current stage in this research area. Next to this, I had to opportunity to talk with the staff about how the farm sources its hay and how this is affected by current drought, which are relevant aspects for my current research.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sergei Schaub is a doctoral candidate at Agricultural Economics and Policy Group and Grassland Science at ETH Zurich, working on the value of species diversity in grasslands. Next to his research, he enjoys travelling the world and spending time outdoors.
"All in all, the International Conference of Agricultural Economists in Vancouver was a fantastic experience, as I could share my research, gather new ideas and motivation, talk with agricultural economists from around the world and visit beautiful Vancouver."