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Benchmarks for improved productivity and profitability of monsoon rice in lower Myanmar

Thwe, Hla Myo, Kristiansen, Paul, Herridge, David F.
Field crops research 2019 v.233 pp. 59-69
cropping systems, crops, data collection, demographic statistics, extension programs, farmers, farming systems, grain yield, household income, households, labor, legumes, mechanization, monsoon season, nitrogen, nitrogen fertilizers, paddies, phosphorus, potassium, prices, production costs, profitability, profits and margins, rice, villages, Myanmar
This research was undertaken to (i) determine the demographics and farming practices, particularly related to nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) inputs, associated with high levels of monsoon rice productivity (grain yields) and profitability (gross margins) in lower Myanmar and (ii) develop crop yield and economic benchmarks and input rates for N, P and K associated with those benchmarks. The study involved data collection from 100 rice-farming households during the 2010 monsoon season across five village tracts in Taikkyi Township, Yangon Region. The interviewed rice farmers were very experienced (average 30 years of farming) but had generally low levels of education with just 24% advancing beyond middle school. There was a widespread lack of mechanisation, with the cost and availability of labour representing a major constraint. Rice yields varied 0.8–4.1 t/ha, with an overall average of 2.6 t/ha. The primary factors affecting monsoon rice productivity were the use of legumes in the cropping system, the application of organic and mineral fertilisers containing N, P and K, the cropping of non-sandy land and the % of household income derived off-farm. Benchmarks, estimated as the means of the top five yielding farmer crops, were 4.0 t/ha grain yield, 40 kg fertiliser N input/ha, 95% legumes prior to monsoon rice, 80 kg total (fertiliser + legume) N input/ha, 14 kg fertiliser P input/ha and 14 kg fertiliser K input/ha. The average gross margin for the top five yielding farms was USD470/ha, compared with the average across the 100 farms of USD246/ha. The total cost of production on an area basis of USD196/ha was 13% higher for the top yielding farms, compared to the average, but at USD50/t grain was about 30% less than the average when expressed on a volume basis. For the top five yielding farms, 82% of the rice was sold, equivalent to 15.7 t paddy, at a price of USD173/t to generate USD2,780 income for the farming household. Novel and innovative extension programs, in which farmers participate as research partners rather than passive recipients of extension messages, may be needed in Myanmar to effectively disseminate the knowledge of farmers already producing the highly productive and profitable crops.