Farmer fertilization practices of mature rubber plantations in Northeast Thailand during a period of low rubber prices

Supattra Kullawong, Satit Aditto, Bénédicte Chambon, Arunee Promkhambut


Since 2000, farmers in Northeast Thailand have planted more than 5,000 sq km of rubber on land previously devoted to agriculture. The expansion of rubber led to a significant increase in tree cover in Northeast Thailand. Rubber prices peaked in 2011 and since then farmers have had to adjust to lower prices. Little research has documented how farmers responded to low rubber prices. This paper seeks to describe how small-scale rubber farmers use fertilizer in a region that did not historically grow rubber during a period of low rubber prices. We collected data from structured interviews with 29 farmers in Subsomboon village in Khon Kaen province, Northeast Thailand. Most farmers reported that they reduced fertilizer costs by reducing the number of times they applied fertilizer, as well as changing to cheaper brands and/or using organic fertilizer. The majority of farmers still used large amounts of chemical fertilizers, either alone or in combination with commercial organic fertilizers with unknown nutrient contents. The N and P2O5 contents of the chemical fertilizer alone were consistent with national recommendations (82.0–137.6 kg N/ha/y and 33.3–97.7 kg P2O5/ha/y). Thai national recommendations for rubber, however, were developed for rubber plantations in traditional planting areas where rubber has been grown for over a century, and are considered by many experts to be high. The study’s findings indicated that small scale rubber farmers would benefit from recommendations for fertilizer applications that respond to variations in rubber prices, while taking into account the diversity of individual household characteristics and goals. To optimize recommendations that sustain the growth and yield of rubber, limit the effects of environmental externalities, and maintain rubber’s profitability, policymakers require detailed information on the diverse situations in which rubber is grown. This requires experimental research that tests a variety of fertilization practices under different biological and physical conditions.


nutrient; smallholder; organic fertilizer; fertilizer intensity; Hevea brasiliensis; benefit; tree cover

Full Text:



Agricultural research development agency (public organization). (n.d.). Rubber industry and production technology. Retrieved from

Burannasarn, C., Aditto, S., & Sriwaranun, Y. (2015). Production and marketing management of cup lump para rubber farmers in Ban Kruat district, Buriram province. Khon Kaen Agriculture Journal, 43(suppl. 1), 734–737.

Chambon, B., Dao, X. L., Tongkaemkaew, U., & Gay, F. (2018). What determine smallholders’ fertilization practices during the mature period of rubber plantations in Thailand? Experimental Agriculture, 54(6), 824–841.doi:

Chambon, B., Ruf, F., Kongmanee, C., & Angthong, S. (2016). Can the cocoa cycle model explain the continuous growth of the rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) sector for more than a century in Thailand?. Journal of Rural Studies, 44, 187–197. doi:

Chotiphan, R., Vaysse, L., Lacote, R., Gohet, E., Thaler, P., Sajjaphan, K., Bottier, C., Char, C., Liengprayoon, S., & Gay, F. (2019). Can fertilization be a driver of rubber plantation intensification? Industrial Crops Production, 141, 1–11. doi:

Department of Agricultural Extension. (2012). Farmer Map Report 2012. Retrieved from

Fox, J., & Castella, J. C. (2013). Expansion of Rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) in Mainland Southeast Asia: What are the Prospects for Small Holders? Journal of Peasant Studies, 40(1), 155–170. doi:

Gohet, E., Saaban, I., Soumahoro, M., Uche, E., Soumahoro, B., & Cauchy, T. (2013, November 19). Sustainable rubber production through good latex harvesting practices: An update on mature rubber fertilization effects on latex cell biochemistry and rubber yield potential. In IRRDB Workshop on Latex Harvesting Technology. IRRDB Workshop on Latex Harvesting Technology, Binh Duong, Vietnam.

Guignard, M. S., Leitch, A. R., Acquisti, C., Eizaguirre, C., Elser, J., Hessen, D. O., Jeyasingh, P. D., Neiman, M., Richardson, A. E., Soltis, P. S., Soltis, D. E., Stevens, C. J., Trimmer, M., Weider, L. J., Woodward, G., & Leitch, I. J. (2017). Impacts of Nitrogen and Phosphorus: From Genomes to Natural Ecosystems and Agriculture. Frontiers in Ecological Evolution, 5, 1-9. doi:

Hurni, K., & Fox, J. (2018). The expansion of tree-based boom crops in mainland Southeast Asia: 2001 to 2014. Journal of Land Use Science, 13(1–2), 198–219. doi:

Kangpichadan, N. (2009). Recommendation for rubber fertilizer. Rubber Research Institute, Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.

Kullawong, S., Aditto, S., Chambon, B., & Promkhambut, A. (2018). Dynamic of rubber production in Northeast Thailand; a case study at Subsomboom village, Doonsard sub-district, Kranuan district, Khon Kaen province. Khon Kaen Agriculture Journal, 46 (suppl. 1), 239–248.

Land Development Department. (2015). GIS soil map information. Retrieved from{%22zoom%22:1,%22position%22:{%22posX%22:0,%22posY%22:0}}

Neadkhun, P. (2017). Coping a strategies against decline and fluctuation of rubber price by smallholder farmers in Northeast Thailand: Nonsa, Kokkong sub-district, Muang district, Bangkan province [Master of Science Thesis in System Approaches in Agriculture]. Graduate School, Khon Kaen University.

Nicod, T. (2017). Etude sur les stratégies d’adaptation des petits planteurs d’hévéa Thaïlandais, face à la chute du prix du caoutchouc naturel [Final thesis: Intership in Thailand within the HEVEADAPT program with CIRAD and Khon Kaen University partnership]. College of International Agro-Development, ISTOM.

Rigg, D. J. (1985). The Role of the Environment in Limiting the Adoption of New Rice Technology in Northeastern Thailand. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 10(4), 481–494. doi:

Royal Forest Department. (n.d.). Executive summary of forestry database project. Retrieved from

Rubber Research Institute of Thailand, Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). Agriculture News. Retrieved from

Rubber Research Institute of Thailand, Department of Agriculture. (2011). Fertilizer recomendations for rubber. The Agricultural Cooperative Federation of Thailand., Ltd.

Sherin, G., & Phebe, J. (2011). Natural rubber plantation: A nutritionally self-sustaining ecosystem. Natural Rubber Research, 24(2), 197–202.

Somboonsuke, B., Kongmanee, C., Thongtrai, N., & Phitthayaphinant, P. (2018). Potential of para-rubber production in Thailand: Production technology management, problems and suggestions for yield improvement. Kasetsart Journal of Social Sciences, 39, 645–659.

Thailand, Doonsard Subdistrict Administrative Organization. (2016). Report of community development plan: Subsomboon village 2016 (pp. 1–3). Department of Local Administration, Ministry of Interior, Thailand.

Thongpan, S. (2016). The history of rubber in Southeast Asia and the Mekong subregion: Changes in geographical locations of supply and demands. Journal of Mekong Societies, 12(2), 187–214.

Tongkaemkaew, U. (2013). Rubber Plantation in Northeast Thailand: Sources of Labors and Characteristics of Plantation Owners, and Its Impacts on Income and Living Status of Local Owners and Full-time Hired Labors [Doctor of Philosophy Thesis in Systems Agriculture]. Graduate School, Khon Kaen University.

Tongkaemkaew, U., & Patanothai, A. (2013). Expansion of rubber plantations in Northeast Thailand: Income and living status of full-time hired labors. Khon Kaen Agriculture Journal, 41(4), 497–506.

Viswanathan, P. K. (2008). Emerging Smallholder Rubber Farming Systems in India and Thailand: A Comparative Economic Analysis. Asian Journal of Agriculture and Development, 5(1362-2016-107697), 1–19. doi:

Wimalagunasekara, T. U., Edirisinghe, J. C., & Wijesuriya, W. (2012). Neighbours’ Influence on Farmer Adoption of Fertiliser Recommendations in Rubber Cultivation. Journal of Rubber Research, 15(3), 179–186.

Yingjajaval, S., & Bangjan, J. (2006). Major Plant Nutrient Contense in Para Rubber (RRIM 600). Agricultural Science Journal (Thailand), 37(4), 353–364.

Zhang, S., Gao, P., Tong, Y., Norse, D., Lu, Y., & Powlson, D. (2015). Overcoming nitrogen fertilizer over-use through technical and advisory approaches: A case study from Shaanxi Province, northwest China. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 209(1), 89–99. doi:



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Forest and Society is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

View My Stats

Forest and Society has been indexed/registered/mentioned in : 


View full indexing services