7. Describing the Area with Numerical Data

This may be a good time to mention what has been achieved so far by the MAPNET project. It has been five years since it was inaugurated. The chart below shows the average attainable yields of lowland paddy for the entire region of Northeast Thailand. The attainable yield is what we can expect to achieve if we take every possible measure to boost yield, under given conditions of temperature, amount of solar radiation and water supply. In other words, it is the marginal yield above which farmers cannot expect to go, however hard they try to increase it using fertilizers and other measures. The variety is assumed to be khao dok mali 105, a high-quality rice brand common in Northeast Thailand. On this chart, one mesh represents an area of 5x5 kilometers. The total area of Northeast Thailand is about 160,000 square kilometers, or about half the whole of Japan. Consequently, the region is divided into about 6,000 meshes. We run the crop model by allocating meteorological data, such as temperature, amount of solar radiation and precipitation, as well as land data such as soil and topography, to each mesh to estimate the attainable yields. The model is tested against the results of regular monitoring of crop growth and the dynamic state of soil water. More than 800 fields are used for monitoring. This chart, in a sense, is the end point of our agricultural assessment. This process does not yet involve the "human" aspects that define productive capacity. The next step is to obtain the gap between what is shown in the chart and the actual yield. This gap, I hope, should prove to be elucidate the "human" aspects. The analysis should be on hand soon. Just looking at the chart is enough to give you an idea of the history of habitation and the formation of local networks in Northeast Thailand. It should be indicative of the close connection between agricultural productivity and social formation.

Average attainable yield of lowland paddy during the 20 years from 1979 to 1998. The chart has not been completed yet; modifications are still being made.

KONO Yasuyuki
Food Production and Environmental Protection

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