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June 20, 2018

Soybeans are being used in Sugarcane Renovation in Sao Paulo

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

Sugarcane producers in the state of Sao Paulo, which is the largest sugarcane producing state in Brazil, have been renovating their sugarcane fields at a slower than average pace in recent years. Ideally, sugarcane should be replanted after five harvests, which is when the yields generally start to decline, but some producers have stretched that out to seven harvests before renovation.

Due to the difficult times in the sugarcane sector in recent years, only 8% of the 5.9 million hectares of sugarcane in Sao Paulo are being replanted on an annual basis. Ideally, 20% of the sugarcane should be replanted every year. The cost of replanting a field of sugarcane is estimated at R$ 7,000 per hectare.

In recent years, the whole process of sugarcane replanting has taken on an interesting twist. Instead of planting a new crop of sugarcane immediately after the old crop is torn up, some producers have been planting one of two years of soybeans before the field is returned to sugarcane. Generally, the landowner receives approximately 10% of the soybean production and researchers have determined that the soybeans need to yield at least 50 sacks per hectare (44.4 bu/ac) in order for the landowner to make a profit.

The introduction of soybeans into the sugarcane renovation process carries with it other benefits as well in addition to just a financial return. Soybean production helps to improve the soil fertility, it increases the level of nitrogen in the soil for the following sugarcane crop, and breaking the cycle of continuous sugarcane production helps in the control of nematodes. Researches have determined that sugarcane yields are higher if it follows a crop of soybeans.

Research presented by the Agronomy Institute of Campinas (IAC) at the 8th Brazilian Soybean Congress recently held in Goiania, Goias, indicated that there is already 333,000 hectares of soybeans used in rotation with sugarcane in the state of Sao Paulo and that could increase to 1,000,000 hectares in the coming years.