Weir, A. 2012. Evaluating the economic feasibility of environmentally beneficial agricultural technologies compared to conventional technologies. Thesis, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA.
Many farmers are willing to adopt new technologies only if they are at least as profitable as the ones they replace. For such farmers, an environmentally beneficial technology must offer comparable profitability to that of the established conventional technology. This framework was applied to perennial wheat and intermediate wheatgrass, two environmentally beneficial crops currently under development. None of the perennial grain lines from wheat trials in Australia had profits that were greater than or equal to those of annual wheat, the comparative conventional technology. To be adopted, the lines would thus require a change in price, yield, costs, subsidies or perenniality.
Improvements in grain yield and quality (which influences price) would be the most economically feasible objectives for a plant‐breeding program aiming to make perennial grains as profitable as annual wheat. Without subsidies, the perennial grain lines’ comparative breakeven grain yields and prices would have to increase by 30 to 14,500 percent for the perennial grain lines to break even with annual wheat. However, soil conservation benefits could justify subsidies of Australian $23 per hectare per year. With these subsidies, the comparative breakeven grain prices and yield gains of the perennial grain lines would be somewhat smaller. So with or without subsidies, significant genetic improvements in grain quality and yield will be required before perennial grains are likely to become as profitable as annual wheat.
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