This paper examines the impact that publicly funded agricultural research has on productivity in crop production within Thailand. It tests empirically the two hypotheses that, first, publicly funded research and development (R&D) in crop production is a significant determinant of total factor productivity (TFP) in the crop sector and, second, that its social rate of return is high. The statistical analysis applies error correction methods to national level time series data for Thailand, covering the period 1970–2006. Emphasis is given to public research in crop production, where most publicly funded agricultural R&D has occurred. The role of international research spillovers and other possible determinants of TFP are also taken into account. The results demonstrate that public investment in research has a positive and significant impact on TFP. International research spillovers have also contributed to TFP. The results support the finding of earlier studies that returns on public research investment have been high. This result holds even after controlling for possible sources of upward biases present in most such studies, due to the omission of alternative determinants of measured TFP. The findings raise a concern over declining public expenditure on crop research, in Thailand and many other developing countries.