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Brazilian dilemma: Grain and storage

07/09/2013 @ 1:21pm

Tropical climates that allow for year-round farming would seem to be a tremendous economic advantage, but for corn and soybean farmers in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, it also poses a problem -- an abundance of grain followed by about a 10% postharvest loss, partially due to a lack of storage.

“There is a 34% undercapacity of soybean storage, and the situation is aggravated by the rapidly increasing production of second-crop maize,” said University of Illinois agricultural economist Peter Goldsmith. “The worst situation occurs in northern Mato Grosso with a simulation of a full-maize second crop. The potential to succession crop is great and current levels of storage are low. There is clear evidence of a shortage of storage, particularly private and cooperative, as grain production rises in the state,” he said.

Goldsmith conducted the research project, which was the first to employ geographic information system (GIS) software to map the coordinates of commercial, cooperative, and private grain storage facilities in Mato Grosso.

“We created GIS coordinates for every facility, mapped them, and then overlaid how much the production there currently is and how much production there would be if farmers were to produce and store a second corn crop on 100% of the bean crop, in order to find the areas that had the most congestion and the least congestion,” Goldsmith said.

The study focused on commercial warehouses with capacity greater than 50,000 metric tons, mapping the state’s 2,143 registered warehouses.

“One region in the northern part of the state is about 6.9 million metric tons under capacity,” Goldsmith said. “That’s 270 million bushels. If a typical grain bin holds about 50,000 bushels, that’s equivalent to 5,420 50,000-bushel grain bins. The area south of that in Lucas is 5 million metric tons under capacity. Of course, the actual undercapacity situation may be less because it assumes double-crop production on every acre. It would be highly unlikely that every acre would be farmed for soybean, maize, and a safrinha, or ‘little crop.’ Alternatively, though, maize yields are less than half that commonly found in the midwestern U.S., so there is a significant upside to the size of the maize crop.’”

Goldsmith said that the information will help determine the best, most convenient locations for additional storage.

“The state of Mato Grosso, where I’ve been working for the past dozen years, is the largest state producing soybeans in the world,” Goldsmith said. “It produces 38% of Brazil’s soybeans and an increasingly greater percentage of corn. It’s also the number one state in Brazil for rice, cattle, and cotton. Over my years of involvement, I have seen it change from being an emergent agro-industrial complex state to a state that is now a global leader.”

Goldsmith said that the project was funded by the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss at the University of Illinois, which researches many different aspects of postharvest loss in developing countries, in addition to storage.

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