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Study Overview

Assessing the Impact of Farmer Field Schools on Excess Fertilizer Use in China
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In China, a major agricultural challenge is the inefficient use of fertilizer and the environmental effects associated with its overuse. The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) is addressing this problem by instituting farmer field schools (FFS). FFS at the village level includes hands-on, farmer-managed learning on experimental plots during a single crop-growing season. The goal of the FFS is to empower FFS graduates with skills in crop management, especially the appropriate use of fertilizer. We conduct a randomized control trial (RCT) to evaluate the initial rollout of the program in multiple counties across two provinces, Anhui and Hebei, where we focus on rice growers and tomato growers, respectively. The overall objective is to exam if participation in the FFS reduces the distance from the agronomists-determined optimal Nitrogen fertilizer usage.

Registration Citation:

Krishna, K., 2014. Assessing the Impact of Farmer Field Schools on Excess Fertilizer Use in China. Registry for International Development for Impact Evaluations (RIDIE). Available at: 10.23846/ridie017

Agriculture and Rural Development
Additional Keywords:
Fertilizer; Environment management; RCT; Sustainable development
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Principal Investigator(s)

Name of First PI:
Krishna Kumar
Rand Corporation
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Study Sponsor

International Initiative for Impact Evaluation
Study Sponsor Location:

Research Partner

Name of Partner Institution:
Chinese Center for Agricultural Policy (CCAP)
Type of Organization:
Research institute/University

Intervention Overview


Working with the MoA, we selected one extension agent for every one or two treatment villages. These extension agents were trained before the intervention on the unified course content. Throughout the entire crop season, they disseminated low carbon farming practices to the villager farmers who are in the treatment group through lecture, field experiment, as well as interactive communication. To provide effective training that is targeted at local needs and conditions, the FFS curriculum was designed based on soil tests and fieldwork conducted by agricultural experts before the intervention and experiment began. In Anhui province, one of the main training goals for fertilizer was to adjust the total amount of N fertilizer application to 165-180 kg/ha, which is considered optimal by agronomists for “normal” weather. In Hebei Province, guidance for tomato growers included recommendations for organic fertilizer use (typically cow manure) and chemical (manufactured) fertilizer.

Theory of Change:
Multiple Treatment Arms Evaluated?

Implementing Agency

Name of Organization:
Type of Organization:
Research Institution/University

Program Funder

Name of Organization:
Ministry of Agriculture in China
Type of Organization:
Public Sector, e.g. Government Agency or Ministry

Intervention Timing

Intervention or Program Started at time of Registration?
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Evaluation Method

Evaluation Method Overview

Primary (or First) Evaluation Method:
Randomized control trial
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Method Details

Details of Evaluation Approach:

We randomly selected 56 villages in Anhui province, assigning 28 villages into the treatment group (to received FFS training) and 28 into the control group. In Hebei province, we selected 36 villages and assigned 18 village to the two treatment and control groups. In each village we randomly surveyed 15 farmers, and in treatment villages, 10 farmers were randomly selected to be “exposed” farmers to study spillover effects. Hence, we have the total sample of 1120 farmers in Anhui and 720 farmers in Hebei. We collected pre- and post-intervention data on a range of relevant outcomes. Since fertilizer usage is highly heterogeneous among farmers, a direct comparison of averages between the treatment and control groups masks one of the main expected contributions of the FFS, which is to educate the farmers about optimal fertilizer usage. Hence, we will employ comparison of absolute distance from optimal fertilizer use and quintile regression analysis method.

Outcomes (Endpoints):

distance of fertilizer use from the recommended optimal fertilizer use; improved farming knowledge scores; yield

Unit of Analysis:
Unit of Intervention or Assignment:
Number of Clusters in Sample:
In Anhui, there are 56 villages; in Hebei, 36 villages.
Number of Individuals in Sample:
1120 households in Anhui and 720 households in Hebei
Size of Treatment, Control, or Comparison Subsamples:
In Anhui: 420 farmers in treatment and control group, respectively; 280 farmers in exposed group. In Hebei, 270 farmers in treatment and control group, respectively; 180 farmers in exposed group.

Supplementary Files

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Outcomes Data

A baseline household survey followed by an endline household survey. A village level survey was conducted as well for matching process to create balanced treatment and control groups.
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Data Access:
Not restricted - access with no requirements or minimal requirements (e.g. web registration)
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Treatment Assignment Data

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Data Analysis

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Study Materials

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Registration Category

Registration Category:
Non-Prospective, Category 4: Data for measuring impacts have been obtained/collected by the research team and analysis for this evaluation has started

Completion Overview

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Data Availability

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Other Materials

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Study Stopped