Editor's Note: Next in a series from Iowa farmer Tyler Bruch whose family farms 32,000 acres in Bahia, Brazil.
As harvest winds down in the U.S., we have applied 80%of our planting fertilizer on this side of the equator.
It is common for Brazilian farms to apply all of their phosphorus (P), MAP or other fertilizer with their planters. For example, some people using 00-20-00 for soybeans are trying to obtain 80-100 units of P; they can only plant about 10-14 acres before refilling, making it a very slow process.
Most fertilizer here is delivered in 1-ton mini bulk bags. Although this is not a fast way of tending to planters, it beats our first year in Brazil when we tended the planters by hand, and all of our fertilizer came in 110-lb. sacks. Let's just say a few days of doing that in 90°-plus heat makes picking rocks back at home all those times not seem so bad after all.
We've been applying our fertilizer during the off season by stripping down planters and only using the fertilizer boxes — a poor man's strip-tilling. We are also able to bulk spread some of our ground. The ability to do this ahead of time allows us to only stop for seed once the rains begin — a huge efficiency increase.
Every day you read something from the so-called experts on how much Brazil will increase soybean acres this year. I think there will be areas in Mato Grosso that will plant more beans than last year, but last year there was a lot of idle ground that did not get planted. When you bring those acres back into production, minus acres in the south that are going to sugar cane for ethanol, I don't think we'll see more than a 5% overall increase in soybean acres across the board. There appears to be many other profitable crops competing for acres such as sugarcane, cotton and corn, and rough land is expensive to clear and takes a few years to get it to cash flow. This will keep most farmers focusing on ground that is already open while trying to maximize their yields.
Overall commodity prices are the best I have seen in Brazil. Old-crop corn is worth about $4.85/bu., beans are around $7.25 and cotton is 60¢/lb. We have been taking advantage of the high prices to hedge a decent portion of our future production all the way through 2010. We figure if the market offers us profit and we don't take it, the market will.