Even though Asian soybean rust continues to plague countries like Brazil, controlling it has become just plain part of a day's work for its farmers.
I'm lucky enough to have recently returned from a week there with a group from Syngenta Seed Care, touring farming operations in the states of Bahia and Mato Grosso. Every farmer we talked to quickly admitted rust is still a pervasive pest, but their ability to scout, spray and control it has become routine.
The last time I was in Brazil (January 2007), rust was sweeping across Mato Grosso like a wildfire, and farmers and agronomists were desperately trying to design the most effective treatment possible. They have and now rust fears are mostly over.
Today, farmers in Mato Grosso told us their most limiting factors for higher yields center on controlling nematodes — cyst, lesion and root knot.
“Rust still is a problem,” says Guilherme Kummer, who farms with his father and brother at Lucas do Rio Verde. “But now nematodes are getting worse and worse. It's serious.”
The Kummers grow 2,500 acres of soybeans, double-cropped with corn. Plus, they have a 2,000-head hog finishing operation along with 120,000 hens for egg production. They're able to feed their corn back to their hogs and chickens, something most Brazil farmers don't do.
“We have rust under control,” says Flavio Silva, Syngenta soybean breeder at Lucas do Rio Verde. “Now we're focused on nematodes.”
Despite competitiveness, it got me thinking once again about how farmers from around the world really do have opportunities to share and learn from each other.
For example, Brazil farmers blazed a bloody trail as they provided valuable first-hand experience and information on dealing with rust. Without it, U.S. researchers would have struggled with developing sound science for dealing with what could have been disastrous for U.S. farmers.
And today, it's likely that U.S. farmers and researchers can return the favor by providing Brazil's growers with advice on controlling those nasty nematodes — especially since the U.S. has more than 25 years of research on the $1-billion pest.
BIG GET BIGGER
The last time I was in Brazil, Blario Maggi, governor of Mato Grosso, had 250,000 acres of soybeans. Today, he has 325,000 acres of beans, 175,000 acres of corn and 25,000 acres of cotton.
And he's not the biggest.
His cousin Erai Maggi has 550,000 acres of soybeans, 137,000 cotton acres and 125,000 in corn.
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