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February 4, 2014

Embrapa to Conduct Field Days Promoting Conventional Soybeans

Embrapa will conduct a series of field days throughout the state Mato Grosso over the next month promoting the production of conventional soybeans (non-GMO). The "Soybean Free" program as it is called in Portuguese was started in 2009 and is designed to give farmers an alternative to only planting Roundup Ready soybeans. The field days will focus on variety selection, management, weed and disease control, and how to avoid contamination with GMO soybeans. The programs will be conducted in six locations throughout the state where conventional soybeans continue to be grown.

The program was designed to develop competitive conventional soybean varieties and to give farmers an option to only growing GMO soybeans. The Brazilian Association of Non-GMO Grain Producers (Abrange) feels that there will continue to be a niche market for conventional soybeans especially in Europe and Asia and that Brazil will be the major supplier of conventional soybeans among the three largest soybean producing countries - Brazil, the United States and Argentina.

Most of the conventional soybeans in Brazil are grown in the state of Mato Grosso because the soybeans grown in that state can be exported out of ports on the Amazon River where it is much easier to control potential contamination from GMO soybeans.

Growing conventional soybeans takes more management skills as compared to Roundup Ready soybeans because herbicide applications are more time sensitive. The advantage of Roundup Ready soybeans is the fact that Roundup herbicide can be applied virtually at any time after the soybeans have been planted, which makes it easier to cultivate larger acreages with less manpower.

The downside to Roundup Ready soybeans has been the emergence of Roundup resistant weeks and volunteer corn that is also resistant to the herbicide. Herbicide resistant volunteer corn is starting to become an issue for Brazilian soybean producers especially where safrinha corn is planted. Safrinha corn is planted after the soybeans are harvested in January and February and it is harvested in June-July-August. Any kernels that fall on the ground will be ready to germinate when the rains return in September or October. If the corn is Roundup Ready as well, then the farmers cannot use Roundup to control the volunteer corn. With conventional soybeans, this problem can be avoided.