MSU Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics
Levels of research capability are broadly divided into the capability to conduct evaluation research (testing program) and creation research (breeding program). The level of research capability is considered as a function of research spilling (i.e. direct and indirect transfer of improved germplasm from other research programs). CIMMYT's international wheat yield trial data are used to assess the yield advantages of cultivars developed locally relative to those imported from other environments and from CIMMYT. These estimates of research spilling are incorporated into the cost-benefit model to estimate the threshold level of production to justify wheat evaluation and breeding programs. The model was also used to determine the profitability of 69 wheat improvement research programs in 31 developing countries.
Two major findings of this study deserve note. First, CIMMYT's wheat varieties were found to be widely transferable across different environments. This result reveals that spillovers of wheat breeding research are larger than previously reported and suggest the need for the CGIAR to rethink its recent 'downsizing' of CIMMYT's budget. Second, 36 out of 69 research programs were found to be 'overinvesting' in wheat improvement research by placing too much emphasis on wheat breeding and too little attention to developing an efficient capacity to borrow improved varieties from the global research system. Although these results are confined to wheat improvement research, they challenge the conventional wisdom of 'underinvestment' in agricultural research. These results also suggest the need to incorporate research spilling into the analysis of investments in research on a commodity by commodity basis.