||The present study assesses cereal production in selected areas of NW-Bangladesh, especially with respect to the biophysical and socio-economic characterization of cereal producing farm households. Three major cereal crops, namely rice, wheat, and maize dominate the cultivated land area (84%), as well as the overall agricultural economy, of Bangladesh. Positive change to the sustainability and productivity of these cereal systems are crucial to the domestic food security of both urban and rural Bangladesh, as around 2 million people are being added to the country’s population annually. The land available to agriculture in this country is also under constant pressure from land degradation and transfer to alternative uses. Meeting the growing demand for food and feed by increasing food grain production has therefore become a pressing challenge for the country, and the importance of resource conservation and productivity enhancement as part of the response is increasingly recognized in the region. Against this backdrop, the empirical part of the study estimates the economics of cereal production and conventional technology diffusion with which the potential of conservation agriculture (CA) in the region can be assessed. Primary data required for the study was collected from sampled households through personal interviews using a comprehensive and pre-tested questionnaire. The primary data collection was carried out in 18 villages of three districts in northwest Bangladesh (Dinajpur, Rajshahi and Nilphamari). The shares of cultivable area to the total land area in the study sites are 77% (Dinajpur), 74% (Nilphamari), and 63% (Rajshahi). Prior to sampling farm households, a village census was enabled to document the general village characteristics such as population, land-use, infrastructure, agricultural input-output markets and prices. A comprehensive baseline household survey (324 households) followed based upon the random selection of farm households. In order to examine the characteristics of the households more extensively, the sample was categorized into three mutually exclusive groups by landholding size: small (0.66 acres, lower 33%), medium (between 0.67 and 1.64 acres, middle 33%), and large (greater than 1.64 acres, upper 33%) farmers. Medium and smallholdings dominate the study area, with cereal producing subsistence farmers prevalent among the smallholders. Among the sampled households, crop production is the major source of income and livelihood – contributing to 38% of total annual household income, on average. Unsurprisingly, large farmers derive a greater share of their income from cropping (55%) than small farmers (25%). On average, the large farmers cultivated land 6.3 times greater in area than do the small farmers. The average rent for the leasing of the land was BDT 14,572 per acre, while the same for leasing out was BDT 17,264 per acre. The ability of farmers in developing countries to invest in land is largely influenced by some form of credit access. About 48% of sampled farmers have taken some form of credit with an average amount of BDT 18,385, with large farmers taking more credit (BDT 28,451) than small (BDT 11,140) and medium (BDT 15,688) farmers. However, small farmers are paying a higher interest rate (26%) than the medium (24%) and large farmers (19%). The major crop rotations followed in the region are rice–rice, rice–wheat, rice–maize and potato/maize (intercropping)–rice. Most of the cereal crops, especially during the Rabi season, are cultivated with irrigation. About 80% of the total irrigated area was covered by groundwater, with shallow tube wells being the dominant source (65% of the total area irrigated). Rice was the only crop in the Kharif (Aman) season; about 73% of cultivable land was occupied by open pollinated varieties of rice (OPVs) – with 90% of the sample farmers cultivating such varieties, while hybrid rice was cultivated only by two large farmers. During the Rabi (Boro) season, 54% of sampled households reported cultivating OPV rice, which occupies 31% of the cultivable land. Hybrid rice is more popular during this season, grown on 7% of cultivable land by 15% of the farm households. Wheat is grown on 18% of land by 45% of households, while maize occupies 8% of the cultivable land with 13% of households involved in its production. In the case of rice, the most preferred varieties were Swarna and BR 11. The average yield (13 quintals per acre) in the study area was significant among all the farmers. The most popular wheat varieties in the study areas were Shatabdi, Prodip, and Bijoy; together these varieties accounted for about 92% of the wheat acreage. The overall average yield of wheat was approximately 11 quintals per acre and there was no significant difference across the farmer groups. Maize ranks as the third most important cereal crop after rice and wheat. Only about 8% of cultivable land (13% among crops) was occupied by Rabi maize, and 7% of cultivable land (11% of farmers cultivate) was planted to spring maize. Only hybrid maize cultivation was found in the study area; NK 40 and 900 M were the most popular varieties in both the maize seasons, and the average yield was about 30 quintals per acre across varieties. The study area is characterized by a very insignificant presence of the government and public sector (cooperatives) agencies. The village private dealers dominate the input channels with a share of 96% of the fertilizer and pesticide markets. The sources of OPV rice seeds are also mainly private dealers (93% village, 6% district, and 1% government). An exclusive monopoly of private dealers (63% village, 37% district) was observed for the hybrid rice seed market. Unsurprisingly, a similar domination by village private dealer in case of both wheat and maize seeds was found through which 91% of wheat seeds and 82% of hybrid maize seeds were sourced. Only about 40% (much lower among small farmers) of rice and wheat grain production was marketed. However, maize is produced mainly for markets in Rabi and spring seasons, with significant profit. The average price of rice and wheat grain was BDT 1,860 per quintal and BDT 1,784 per quintal, respectively. The market price of maize grain varies across the varieties cultivated; the highest price was obtained from M 1,873 (BDT 1,400/quintal) and a lower price for NK 40 (BDT 943/quintal). On average, the total paid-out cost of Aman rice is BDT 11,239 per acre; the difference among the farm size groups was small. The gross revenue of Aman rice cultivation was BDT 23,594 per acre, making rice a profitable crop with cost–benefit ratio approximately 1:1.9 after imputing family labor cost. There was no significant difference in input use or profitability of rice farming among farmer groups based on the scale of operation. On average, the total paid-out cost of Boro rice was BDT 12,603 per acre. The gross revenue of Boro rice cultivation was BDT 38,782 per acre, making rice a profitable crop with a cost–benefit ratio of approximately 1:2.5, after imputing family labor cost. This net revenue is more than twice that of Aman rice, mainly due to higher crop productivity. The average paid-out cost of wheat was BDT 9,899 per acre; small farmers were observed to be more cost-effective than other groups. The gross revenue of wheat cultivation was BDT 20,036 per acre, with only small variations between the farmer groups. The cost–benefit ratio of wheat cultivation was approximately 1:1.9 after imputing family labor cost. The average total paid-out cost of maize during Rabi was BDT 11,931 per acre and BDT 8,864 per acre in spring. The cost–benefit ratio with imputed family labor is 1:2 (Rabi) and 1:2.5 (spring); spring maize has a higher ratio due to the lower cost of cultivation compared to Rabi maize. Most farmers in the study area have adopted the use of two-wheel tractors (91%), diesel pumps (88%), and mechanical pesticide sprayers (79%), with more large farmers owning their machinery. Although awareness exists among farmers regarding technologies such as laser land levelers, seed treatment/priming, and leaf color charts (LCC), CA techniques such as turbo/happy seeders, no-till, quality protein maize, and site-specific nutrient management are relatively unheard of. For example, only less than 2% of farmers were found adopting zero (no) tillage, direct seeded rice, and bed planting. They perceive little impact from these technologies, although 23% of non-adopters were aware of them. Understandably, given the absence of information dissemination and government encouragement, the lack of information and unavailability of the products seem to be the key constraints inhibiting wider application of CA technologies, despite the documented benefits to be gained. In summation, the results of this study indicate a small average size of farms, a high level of inequality, lack of suitable crop variety, and the inadequate presence of government or public sector input and output market channels. The overall challenge is, therefore, to reduce the dependence of farmers on external inputs, curb the total cost of production, and achieve the goal of sustainable production of cereals through the adoption of new productivity-enhancing technologies, including CA (or individual elements thereof). To achieve this, the cereal sector in this region must overcome current unawareness among farmers about these technologies, the unsuitability of some of the technologies to be applied to small and marginal farms, and the scant involvement of the government and public sector in spreading awareness, as well as making the technology affordable. In addition, there must be sufficient provision of efficient market channels in order to encourage farmers to increase yields and profitability by adopting these technologies.