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February 5, 2015

6% of Mato Grosso's Soybeans lost Pre and Post-Harvest

Brazilian soybean farmers have many things to worry about including: erratic weather, price swings, currency exchange rates, transportation costs, etc. Most of the things that keeps them awake at night are out of their control, but one thing that has a direct impact on his bottom line is within his control - pre and post-harvest losses of his grain.

Tracking the amount of losses during the harvesting and transporting of the soybeans grown in Mato Grosso was the focus of a two year study conducted by the Soybean and Corn Producers Association of Mato Grosso (Aprosoja) in conjunction with the state and federal universities of Mato Grosso, the University of Illinois in the United States, and the Embrapa research service of Brazil. The result of the study has now been published in a handbook entitled "Evaluation of Soybean Losses during Harvesting."

The study found that 6% of the soybeans produced in Mato Grosso are lost in pre and post-harvest activities. The statewide soybean yield in Mato Grosso is approximately 52 sacks per hectare (3,120 kg/ha or 45 bu/ac), so approximately 3.1 sacks per hectare or 2.7 bu/ac are lost pre and post-harvest. If the price of soybeans is US$ 10.00 per bushel that means farmers lost US$ 27 dollars per acre from their bottom line.

Researchers tracked the soybeans from ten days prior to harvest all the way until the soybeans left the ports. They found that 1% of the soybeans are lost pre-harvest, 4% during the harvesting process, 0.5% during the transport from the field to the storage facility, and 0.25% lost in transit from the storage facility to the final destination either an export facility or industrial facility. The handbook not only tracks the losses, but also gives practical ideas on how farmers can reduce those losses.

The impetus for the study started with professors at the University of Illinois who were interested in tracking how much grain is lost in pre and post-harvest activities in three regions of the world: the Americas, Africa, and Asia. The researchers tracked soybean that were produced in Sinop, which is located in northern Mato Grosso.

Highway BR-163, which traverses the entire state of Mato Grosso north to south, is sometimes called the "Soybean Highway" of Brazil because of its importance in moving the soybeans and corn produced in the state to ports in southern Brazil. It could also be called the "Soybean Highway" because of the amount of soybeans spilled along the roadway.

Many of the trucks used to transport grain in Brazil were not designed to haul grain and as a result, there is often a steady stream of soybeans dribbling out of the back of the truck as it travels down BR-163. If the ruck is only going a short distance from the field to a storage facility, this may be only a minor issue, but the distance from central Mato Grosso to port facilities in southern Brazil is a very long distance - as much as 2,000 kilometers.

As much as 60% of the soybeans produced in Mato Grosso are trucked to the ports over bumpy and pothole filled roadways and every time the truck hits a bump, more soybeans dribble out the back of the truck. During the course of the trip, hundreds of kilograms of soybeans could be spilled in this manner.

Mato Grosso is expected to produce approximately 28 million tons of soybeans and this study indicates that 1.6 million tons of those soybeans are lost.