Diversity for Export
Agriculture in Thailand accounts for about 12% of the country’s GDP. Thai growers produce a range of diverse crops, many of which are exported to countries around the world. Two of the most profitable commodities are rice and sugarcane.
Overcoming rice production challenges
Rice production comprises a large portion of the Thai economy and labor force. Of the approximately 40% of citizens who work in agriculture, nearly half are estimated to be rice farmers. About half of the country’s cultivated land is devoted to growing specialized varieties of grain in demand around the globe, placing it among the world’s largest rice exporters.
Despite its success, Thailand’s rice sector faces several production challenges, including variable rainfall, drought, flooding and low soil fertility. The intensive cultivation of rice over the last few decades has also depleted important micronutrients such as boron from the soil, potentially reducing crop yields.
Boron deficiency is a leading cause of low rice crop productivity, affecting both the quantity and quality of rice grains. Rice grown in boron deficient soil may be chalkier and can break during the milling process. Because they contain less starch, grains also become stickier than usual after cooking. Boron supplementation can substantially improve rice growth and yield, including grain weight, texture, and number of grains per plant.
Supporting high sugarcane yields
Thailand is also the world’s second-largest sugar exporter of sugarcane. Sugarcane thrives in a long, sunny and hot growing season with moderate to high levels of rainfall and a cooler, dry harvest season. In recent years, low rainfall has reduced sugarcane harvests throughout Thailand. When soils are very dry, decomposition of organic material slows, sometimes causing boron deficiency.