The Location of Agricultural Research and the Direction of Agricultural Innovation


Author/Creator ORCID





Citation of Original Publication

Andrews, Michael; The Location of Agricultural Research and the Direction of Agricultural Innovation; National Bureau of Economic Research, 2019;


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I analyze the importance of the local environment on the direction and subsequent diffusion of agricultural innovations. By comparing counties that are near and far from land grant colleges using a variety of distance measures, I show that proximity is more important for agricultural productivity and output than for other measures of innovation in other sectors. To shed light on how widely innovations from land grant colleges diffuse, I exploit data on the histories of new wheat varieties introduced in the U.S. before 1920 and find that only 10-17% of wheat acreage planted in varieties developed since the establishment of land grant colleges is planted in varieties developed at land grant colleges. To present direct evidence that the local environment affects the direction of innovation, I use data on publications by researchers affiliated with land grant colleges to show that, even more than a century after the land grant colleges were established, land grant research is biased towards crops that were initially most prevalent in land grant college counties, rather than those that were most prevalent in the rest of the state. Finally, I show that alumni of land grant colleges with agricultural degrees were more likely to live near their alma maters than were alumni with other majors, which I interpret as evidence that agricultural human capital is more location specific than other forms of human capital.