Learning to Appropriately Use Technologies: Evidence from Fertilizer Application in China

Last registered on September 30, 2020


Trial Information

General Information

Learning to Appropriately Use Technologies: Evidence from Fertilizer Application in China
Initial registration date
September 30, 2020
Last updated
September 30, 2020, 10:24 AM EDT



Primary Investigator

UC Berkeley

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
While under-adoption of technology in agriculture is widely discussed, the inappropriate use of technology/input has become a matter of concern. We find strong evidence that farmers in China tend to overuse nitrogen fertilizer and underuse fertilizers in other dimensions, including phosphorus and potassium. Such decision making is affected by the crops' growing stages before the ripening, in which nitrogen provides observable signals on plants while phosphorus and potassium do not. We propose two randomized controlled trials to examine the effects of noticing/improved learning on the appropriate adoption of fertilizers. Our interventions consist in providing soil testing information, fertilizer recommendations, and technologies to facility farmer's learning.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Chen, Binkai, Wei Lin and Ao Wang. 2020. "Learning to Appropriately Use Technologies: Evidence from Fertilizer Application in China." AEA RCT Registry. September 30. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.6477-1.0
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
the use of different fertilizers, beliefs about production, understanding of different fertilizers, difference between practice and recommendations, profits/yields.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We partner with local agricultural extensions, surveying 1200 households in 200 villages. The target of our interventions is to show that farmers can improve the proportion of different fertilizer use without compromising yields. We randomly divide 200 villages into four treatment arms (three interventions). In each arm we have 300 households: 1) ST: We provide farmers with soil testing results. 2) ST+Recom: we offer farmers soil testing results and recommendations about fertilizer use based on soil testing results. 3) ST+Recom+ Noticing: we emphasize on the importance of phosphorus (P)/ potassium (K), and show the graphical/experimental relationship between P/K and outputs. We also provide additional technologies to facility farmer's learning.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomize by a computer.
Randomization Unit
Village level randomization for the interventions.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
200 villages.
Sample size: planned number of observations
1200 households in 200 villages.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Our interventions:
Arm 1 (control): 300 households.
Arm 2 (soil testing information): 300 households.
Arm 3 (soil testing+ fertilizer recommendations): 300 households.
Arm 4 (soil testing+ fertilizer recommendations+ education of fertilizers): 300 households.

Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
The Committee for Protection of Human Subjects at UC Berkeley
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