Piracy in Agriculture

Last registered on February 11, 2020


Trial Information

General Information

Piracy in Agriculture
Initial registration date
February 10, 2020

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
February 11, 2020, 1:44 PM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

Universidad del Rosario

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Universidad del CEMA and INTA
PI Affiliation
University of Chicago
PI Affiliation
University of Chicago and UCEMA

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
In markets where the protection of intellectual property cannot be assured through legal enforcement mechanisms, organizations have to resort to norm-based compliance mechanisms. The question how to encourage compliance becomes especially interesting in settings where royalty payments contribute towards research and development in a sector's technological advancement. This is the case for the Argentinian agricultural sector and seed technology research. New seeds research is typically financed through a royalty scheme: farmers that re-use seeds in a subsequent agricultural season are asked to pay royalties on the amount of farm-produced seeds. These amounts are self-reported, not verifiable, and reporting cannot be enforced by law. Currently, less than 20% of farmers report re-planting and pay royalties. This is despite a seemingly wide-spread norm that condemns misreporting and thus piracy in agricultural seed R&D. With this project we test several alternative explanations that could drive piracy in agriculture. Specifically, we estimate the importance of attention and present bias, aversion towards private providers of R&D, and moral consistency. We conduct a randomized field experiment with the entire population of wheat and soybean farmers in Argentina and follow them over the course of one agricultural season.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Backstrom, Jesse et al. 2020. "Piracy in Agriculture." AEA RCT Registry. February 11. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.5386
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Our primary outcomes are the compliance of farmers regarding royalty payments both at the extensive and the intensive margin.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We will conduct two field experiments with independent samples that will inform us about potential mechanisms against piracy in agriculture.

In a first experiment we will test whether farmers are conscious of their piracy behavior by calling their attention to the implicit contract they sign when purchasing seeds for the first time. We will randomly allocated half of all distribution centers in Argentina that sell wheat seeds to a treatment group - these distribution centers serve approximately 12,700 farmers. Farmers in the treatment group will be handed a flyer with their bill that calls attention to the royalty scheme they have agreed to buy purchasing this bag.

In a second experiment we will estimate the effects of different treatments during the annual communication efforts regarding royalty payments on soybean farmers. The sample for the second experiment will consist of around 30.000 individuals. A control group will receive the standard communication that loosely talks about the importance of royalty payments for R&D in seed technology. There will be three distinct treatment groups.
Treatment 1: Farmers in this group will additionally receive information about the importance of royalty payments for their personal future and agricultural success.
Treatment 2: Farmers in this group will be informed that 20% of the royalties they pay will fund an independent research prize on seed technology instead of being paid out to private seed producer companies.
Treatment 3: Farmers in this group will be reminded of their own moral standing regarding seed piracy before being asked to declare their royalty amount.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization will be done in the office by a computer. For the first experiment randomization will occur on the level of the distribution center. The second experiment will be randomized at the individual level.
Randomization Unit
The first experiment will be randomized at the distribution center level. The second experiment will be randomized at the individual level.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
For the first experiment there will be 683 clusters (distribution centers).
Sample size: planned number of observations
The first experiment will include approximately 12,700 farmers in 683 clusters whereas the second experiment includes around 30,000 farmers.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
We will randomly allocate 342 distribution centers to the treatment group and 341 to the control group for the first experiment.

For the second experiment, we will randomize 1/4 of the sample into each group.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
University of Chicago Social Sciences Division IRB
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials