In business, it is unusual to find a technology that proves to be better and costs less than the one in use. In theory, that technology should spread like wildfire and quickly replace current production methods. If it doesn’t, there is usually a barrier that prevents its spread.
In a new CPI study, we examine a farming technology called the Direct Planting System (DPS) which has proven to be one of the most important developments in agriculture in the past decades – however, after nearly forty years of its introduction in Southern Brazil, only 10% of Brazilian farmers reported using it in the 2006 Agricultural Census. The questions we address in this study are: What is keeping this technology from spreading and how do we overcome this barrier?
Our analysis reveals that soil composition is an important factor affecting the spread of the DPS. When soils are similar in a given municipality, it is easier for farmers to learn from the experience of peers who have already successfully adopted the system. Likewise, differences in the soil can act as a barrier to the expansion of DPS, since the system would have to be adapted to different soils.