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December 17, 2014

Ranchers in Mato Grosso do Sul combining Cattle and Soybean Production

Brazilian farmers continue to expand their soybean production in spite of lower soybean prices. In their latest monthly report, Conab is now estimating the 2014/15 Brazilian soybean acreage at 31.66 million hectares (78.2 million acres) or 4.9% more than last growing season. Much of the new soybean expansion is the result of the conversion of degraded pastures into row crop production.

The state of Mato Grosso do Sul in the center-west region of Brazil is a good example of this pasture-to-soybeans conversion. Conab is estimating that the soybean acreage in the state will increase 8.5% this growing season to 2.3 million hectares (5.7 million acres) as more cattle ranchers in the state decide to include soybean production in their operations.

Brazilian scientists have been promoting the long term rotation of row crops and pastures as a way to increase cattle production and row crop production while at the same time reducing the pressure to clear new land in order to increase revenues. This conversion process is being aided by the Mato Grosso do Sul Foundation which has established a series of research plots in the cattle ranching areas of the state to evaluate the adaptability of soybean production.

The conversion process involves plowing up pastures and then planting some of the areas to corn or forage sorghum to produce silage to replace some of the missing pastures. In the remaining areas, agricultural limestone and fertilizers are applied to improve the soil fertility. After several years of row crop production the land can be reseeded to pastures with improved grass species. The higher level of soil fertility then improves the productivity of the pastures allowing for more cattle to be produced in a smaller area.

Many ranchers realize that clearing new areas is no longer an option and they must use their existing land in a more productive manor. Combining cattle ranching and row crop production is now a viable option for many ranchers in Mato Grosso do Sul.