September marks the beginning of the summer crop in Brazil. Farmers here in Paraná have the planters greased and tractors ready to begin. If rainfall allows, soybean planting begins in the second half of September. For many years, soybeans have been the major crop in Brazil, then corn. And that’s easy to understand – corn is more technical to grow, needing more fertilizer and nitrogen. Soybeans can grow and produce well in relatively poor tropical soils.
For sure our climate favors soybeans. Most of Brazil does not have cool nights that boost corn yields. I will insult some farmers here, but it takes better farmers to produce corn and wheat; any farmer can grow soybeans. You can see that in our national corn average – around 63.6 bu./acre– and in our soybean average – around 46 bu./acre.
I will describe how we plant and what inputs we use. Let's begin with soybeans.
We pay around $1.40/lb. for transgenic seed. Royalties cost $3.61/acre if you pay when you buy the seed (or 2% of the money premium on your proceeds when you sell the beans). That transgenic royalty is mandatory, and the trader discounts that amount from your check.
We plant in 17-in. rows, six seeds per foot (160,000 soybean plants/acre). Fertilizer is placed under and below the seed. A typical planter has nine rows of 17 in., pulled by a 120-hp. tractor. Some farmers are buying new 12-row planters and 180-hp. tractors. Just this year, 600-hp. tractors and 36-row planters are available, but tthese are rare, even in northern states like Mato Grosso that have huge, flat fields.
Seed is inoculated and treated with insecticide and fungicide. A common fertilizer formula we use is 02-20-18, at a rate of 202 lbs./acre.
Resistant weeds are a problem, and we have to mix other herbicides with glyphosate to control them. Usually we spray twice to control weeds, twice to control caterpillars, two or three times to control stink bugs and two to three times also to control diseases like rust and powdery mildew. Target spot
(?) and white mold are becoming a problem, too.
That is how we manage a common soybean crop in Brazil. The difference between the regions is the fertilizer. In cerrado areas up north (Mato Grosso) they
use twice the fertilizer rate we use in southern Brazil. The soil there is
sandy and poor, while the soil here in the South is rich in clay (70%) and
has a good native fertility. We harvest the beans as soon as the moisture test reaches 18%. We are afraid to wait more because is common to have storms and hail during harvest season.
As soon we harvest the summer crop, we plant the "out of season corn,” and every day we plant early means seven days that we harvest earlier.
We use cash forward contracts with a co-op or trader.Our futures soybean market, BMF in São Paulo, does not have buyers for all the soybeans offered. It is not liquid, we say.
It is rare to find a farmer who forward contracts with the futures market. Most of them do not understand how it works and they are afraid of it.
This is how we do things here in southern Brazil, and hopefully will yield abundant fruits for our labor.
Marcelo Favarão is a farmer and agronomist in Campina da Lagoa, in the western Paraná state of Brazil. He shaes his Brazilian perspective with us periodically on soybean farming there.