The underperformance of cereal crops in Myanmar is closely related to inadequate supply of nutrients, particularly nitrogen (N). Although other crop management practices can limit crop yields, management of nutrients for crop production is an important contemporary issue. Myanmar rice growers have changed from being mainly subsistence to semi-subsistence, and there are also good prospects for increasing rice exports. Therefore there are incentives to improve rice yields and profits. Similarly for maize, as a higher value crop, there is a strong incentive to improve production and profits. But smallholder options to increase crop fertility must be considered in the social and economic context of their farming systems and village livelihoods. With small farm sizes, indebtedness, potentially high borrowing costs, and aversion to risk, their personal perspectives must be identified, discussed and incorporated into development activities. The decision to use more fertiliser is an investment with potential benefits and costs, which must be considered in the family and village contexts in which the decision is made. Smallholder personal (subjective) beliefs about crop yield improvements from added fertiliser are important in considering such decisions. An economic framework is available for evaluating such decisions (marginal analysis of returns from incremental N applications with a high target rate of investment return), which can be used in conjunction with field demonstrations of crop yield responses to fertiliser. But further study of social aspects such as understanding smallholder perspectives, motivations and limits to action will be undertaken in conjunction with agronomic and economic assessments.


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