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2009 Fall Crop Tech Tour: The Brazilian view

Agriculture.com Staff 10/13/2009 @ 2:28pm

Brazil's immense, flat crop fields represent huge potential for corn and soybean production. But, for a handful of reasons, that potential's not yet reality. It's getting closer, though.

Halfway across the globe, while farmers in the Corn Belt were amidst one of the most challenging fall harvest seasons in recent memory, a small group of Brazilian journalists got a glimpse of U.S. agriculture and, in the process, saw some of the steps their nation's farmers need to take to get on equal footing with their American peers.

Brazil's corn crop should top 2 billion bushels again next year, while the soybean crop is expected to be around 2.2 billion bushels.

Mike Gretter, Harper, Iowa, farmer who also operates a farm in Bahia, Brazil, talks about farmers' adoption of technology in Brazil, as well as the differences in production between the two nations.

Soybean yields in Brazil, for the most part, are on par with U.S. yields. That's not quite true for corn, where Brazil still lacks some of the production technology that keeps the nation's corn farmers behind American farmers. Right now, corn seed technology is the main reason for the output discrepancy.

"In seed technology, they're behind us, but last year was the first year for planting Bt corn," says Mike Gretter, a Harper, Iowa, farmer who's also a part-owner of a farm in Bahia in northern Brazil. "If corn yields 200 bushels here, in northern Brazil, it would yield around 150 bushels. Technology is ramping up and they're allowing more Bt traits, so it will get better."

Fabricio Amorim Monteiro is a veterinarian and crop specialist in Parana in southern Brazil. While not as large as Mato Grosso in terms of its crop production, Parana is an area where new technology could mean a big increase in the state's agriculture in the coming years. During his trip to the Corn Belt this fall as part of the Agriculture.com Crop Tech Tour, Monteiro says he's learning what comprises the edge U.S. farmers have over his country's farmers. It's an edge that's thinning quickly.

"The technology here is so great, and you use technology so well here, and for us, that's important because we are learning how to use technology in Brazil," Monteiro says. "[With technology,] I believe in 5 to 10 years, we'll be on the same ground as you are nowadays."

Fabricio Amorim Monteiro, a veterinarian and crop specialist traveling with journalists from the Parana state of Brazil, says U.S. farmers make good use of technology, something that's on the increase in his country.

Monteiro adds that financial infrastructure for farmers, like crop insurance, is altogether lacking in Brazil. This, too, is changing.

"The other thing very important here is the insurance you have, and now we are interested in doing the same thing in Brazil," Monteiro says. "With low prices, in Brazil, a situation like that becomes a turmoil. Because of the insurance [in the U.S.], you have calm. It shows that you are more prepared for dark financial situations."

Brazil's immense, flat crop fields represent huge potential for corn and soybean production. But, for a handful of reasons, that potential's not yet reality. It's getting closer, though.

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