January 13, 2011

New Twist to Brazilian Crop Rotations - Second Crop of Soy after Rice

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

A new twist is being proposed to the traditional method of double cropping in central Brazil. Over the last decade, farmers in central Brazil have been moving toward a rotation system in which soybeans are planted first and then when the soybeans are harvested, the farmers plant a second crop of corn or cotton called the safrinha. The new proposed scheme is to first plant a crop of rain-fed rice and then after the rice is harvested, plant a second crop of soybeans.

In order to facilitate this rotation, scientists have developed short cycle soybean varieties adapted to the region and the sunlight regime of central Brazil. The new soybean varieties being released to the public mature in 85 to 110 days compared to 113 to 120 days for more traditional soybeans.

These short cycle soybeans would be planted in February after the rice crop has been harvested. According to researchers, planting soybeans as a second crop offers numerous advantages for the farmers. One of the primary advantages would be a lower cost of production due to the need for less insecticides and fungicides. If the second crop of soybeans was planted in February, it would start to flower in March as the rainy season is starting to wane. Researchers believe that the lower relative humidity would slow the spread of pests and diseases especially soybean rust, thus saving on chemical costs. Research has indicated that these new soybean varieties have the same yield potential as traditional varieties - 40 to 65 sacks per hectare (2,400 to 3,900 kg/ha or 35 to 56 bu/ac).

Soybeans planted in February would be harvested in May when the rains have essentially ended, thus reducing the possibility of too much rain disrupting the soybean harvest. These soybeans potentially could be of higher quality due to the dry conditions during harvest and the farmers would also save on potential drying costs as well.

A big advantage to planting double cropped soybeans would be lower transportation costs to move the soybeans to local grain companies or export facilities. Freight costs in central Brazil always spike during the peak of the soybean harvest due to the supply and demand of trucks. As soon as the soybean harvest is complete, freight cost start to come down. These double crop soybeans would be harvested after the freight costs have already dropped, thus saving money on transportation. Storage costs would also be lower due to less time in storage and farmers could avoid the long lines and bottlenecks that are so common during the traditional soybean harvest period.

Farmers in central Brazil are always looking for possible ways to lower their production cost while still taking advantage of their extended growing season and planting a safrinha crop of soybeans may be one of those solutions.