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Abstract

Direct seeding of rice, a method that saves labor relative to the traditional laborintensive practice of transplanting, is spreading in tropical rice areas of Asia in response to rising scarcity of farm labor. The current paper, based on farm-level data, provides an updated analysis of the patterns of spread of direct seeding and its economics in northeast Thailand, a major rainfed rice-growing area. The results indicate that direct seeding accounted for 38% of the rice area in 2009, with the rate of spread during 1996-2009 being about one percentage-point per year. The yield of direct-seeded rice increased over time with farmer experience with this method. This has led to improvements in profitability and technical efficiency of direct-seeded farms. Despite the underlying trend towards expansion of direct seeding, there are considerable seasonal fluctuations and spatial variations in the spread of the method. Implications of this for further technological development are derived.

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