Nik TyackThe popular Stated Preference Methods course started on May 9th, 2016. We sat down with one of the students, who will look into what what value the Czech public places on preserving crop diversity.

Nicholas Tyack is a Master’s student at the Institute of Economic Studies of Charles University in Prague. He will be using stated preference techniques in his Master’s thesis, and is conducting research with the generous financial support of the Grant Agency of Charles University (GAUK). He is working with the Czech gene bank, a publically supported programme to conserve crop diversity. “In my stated preference work I want to look at the value the Czech public places on the conservation of different classes of crop diversity. And if I have a positive result, then that might provide some support for expanding the genebank’s program and funding, as well as expanding the literature on the the valuation of crop diversity.”

Farmers today often abandon old varieties and use improved crop varieties that are more profitable. This can pose a problem when crop diversity is lost. For instance, a specific kind of apple that is a favourite amongst consumers or a special sort of hops used by the Czech beer industry could be worth preserving to avoid extinction. With wheat, the most important crop in the Czech Republic, it is more about using wheat diversity to breed new, improved varieties, increase the resilience of agriculture and make crops more resistant to pests and adapted to climate change. Nicholas’s thesis will also in part be looking at the wild relatives of crops, which are often resistant to some crop diseases, since these so-called “crop wild relatives” continue to evolve in response to diseases and pests.

The stated preference course has been really helpful for Nicholas, he has been able to roughly sketch out the survey instrument for his thesis and needs to complete it, test it and launch it. “This course came at a perfect time,” he said. “I was able to talk to Professor Kriström about designing my survey. He is definitely an expert in the field.”

Nicholas majored in biology at Pomona College, where he only took a few courses in economics. But while working on a research project with the Global Crop Diversity Trust, he developed an interest in the area of economics of crop diversity. The thesis will hopefully be completed in September and could be followed by PhD studies, but Nicholas is certain that he will not be finished with Environmental Economics or Stated Preferences any time soon.

You can learn more about crop wild relatives at www.cwrdiversity.org.

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