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March 3, 2011

New Rotation of Soybeans-Corn-Pasture Being Promoted in Brazil

Farmers are always searching for ways to improve their bottom line and in Mato Grosso it might involve a novel approach to both soybean production and cattle ranching.

Many farmers in the state have resisted the trend of converting all their soybean production to Roundup Ready soybeans because they feel there will continue to be niche market for conventional soybeans especially in Europe. In order to continue growing conventional soybeans, farmers feel they need a premium for their soybeans to offset the additional costs of keeping the soybeans separate from GM soybeans and the marginally increased cost of production for conventional soybeans compared to GM soybeans.

Currently, there are premiums being offered for conventional soybeans in northern and western Mato Grosso of R$ 2 per sack of 60 kilograms or approximately US$ 0.50 per bushel. It's easier for farmers in the state to continue conventional soybean and corn production than in other parts of Brazil because their crops can be barged out of Brazil via the Amazon River ports thus avoiding being mixed in with GM soybeans if they moved to ports in southern Brazil. As long as the premiums remain in place, there will continue to be a segment of the Mato Grosso soybean production that will remain GM free. Currently, about 30% of the soybeans grown in western Mato Grosso are conventional soybeans.

Another new method of increasing income per hectare is to incorporate pasture into the cropping mix. Embrapa has already conducted successful research in this area and they are convinced it will work on a commercial scale as well. The first crop planted in this new rotation is early-maturing soybeans at the regular time in late September or early October. The soybeans would then be harvested in early January and immediately followed by a second crop of corn. In addition to planting corn, pasture grass would also be planted at the same time. Once the corn is harvested in May, the pasture grass would allow for cattle grazing during the dry season. Researchers feel the grass would be adequate to support four head of cattle per hectare. When the dry season ends, another crop of soybeans would be planted thus getting three crops out of the same field in one year.

This new rotation is being promoted as not only a way to increase income per hectare, but also helping to hold down the need for new land clearing. Embrapa has also been promoting the use of degraded pasture land for new row crop production and