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August 19, 2014

Fate of Safrinha Soybean Production to be Decided in Mato Grosso

The Plant Sanitary Commission of Mato Grosso (CDSV) is poised to present scientific evidence that safrinha soybean production in the state is not a sustainable practice and that it should be prohibited. The practice of planting two crops of soybeans back-to-back in the same field during the same growing season has been widely criticized by scientists due to the increased potential for the spread of diseases and pests from one growing season to the next. The evidence to prohibit the practice will be presented this week in meetings held in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture in Mato Grosso.

There was a record large acreage of safrinha soybeans planted during the 2013/14 growing season due to strong soybean prices compared to corn prices in the state. No official estimate has been released as to the extent of safrinha soybean acreage in Mato Grosso, but it is believed to have been more than 100,000 hectares in 2013/14. The vast majority of the double crop acreage is devoted to corn production, but many farmers lost money on their corn production during the previous growing season so some decided to try a second crop of soybeans instead.

The Soybean and Corn Producers Association of Mato Grosso (Aprosoja) has not taken an official position on this matter other than to say that the decision to plant safrinha soybeans should be left up to the individual producer, but that stated that farmers should also be mindful of their responsibility to produce their crops with the best sanitary practices.

In the absence of "winter weather" in central Brazil to help control diseases and pests between growing seasons, scientists have long argued that two crops of soybeans back-to-back would increase the spread of diseases such as soybean rust and pests such as leaf eating caterpillars and nematodes. They are also concerned that the effectiveness of fungicides and insecticides would be diminished by the near constant pressure on diseases and pests to develop resistance to the chemicals.

The Plant Sanitary Commission was the organization in 2005 that recommended the implementation of the 90-day soybean free period in the state which prohibited any live soybeans from June 15th to September 15th. The commission stated that the measure was needed to limit the spread of soybean rust from one growing season to the next. That practice has since been adopted by a dozen states in Brazil and in neighboring Paraguay.

At the time the 90-day soybean free period was started, most soybean farmers were against the prohibition especially those with irrigation systems that had planned on growing soybeans year round in the state. Today, farmers realize the benefit of the practice and readily adhere to the prohibition. Proponents for the elimination of safrinha soybean production feel that in time farmers will also see the benefits of this new measure.

After the 90-day soybean free period was instituted, farmers looked for alternative crops to plant after soybeans and it was then that safrinha corn production took off in Mato Grosso. Today, 97% of the corn produced in Mato Grosso is double cropped after soybeans and nationwide, 60% of Brazil's total corn crop is double cropped after soybeans.