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New Crops, Fish, and Livestock

Since His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej first became involved in rural development, His Majesty has sought to broaden the base of Thailand's agricultural output. Capitalizing on the country's ample sunlight, high temperature and abundant supplies of water, he has worked to introduce and develop new crops that were initially designed as part of the crop-substitution programmes to wean tribesmen away from opium cultivation. Foreign crops were also tested and introduced to Thailand.
 
Gradually, the range of crops and of geographic distribution was increased so that, today, virtually any vegetable and fruit can be cultivated in Thailand, a situation unimagined 40 years ago. In many instances, considerable research was required to adapt these crops to local conditions, to improve flavours, and to increase size of yield. Research in His Majesty's Centres and in Department of Agriculture laboratories has paid off in increased incomes for farm families and in the number of products that have found markets overseas. It has also spawned a high-tech agro-industry to process the raw fruit and vegetables into higher-value, longer-lasting products for foreign buyers. In recent years, His Majesty's Research centres have developed several new varieties of tilapia, common carp and giant Mekong catfish (Pla Buek) for release into rivers, streams, and ponds. In addition, ambitious livestock breeding programmes have crossed hardy local varieties with larger foreign varieties to create bigger, more productive animals. The hybrids can also withstand local conditions without the need for special feeds and accommodations. Now seen on many farms are frog ponds where large varieties are propagated for food, a popular item in northern and northeastern diets.
 
To improve farmer knowledge of new techniques and opportunities, courses in animal husbandry are a mainstay of development efforts by Royal agencies and government departments.
 

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