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September 26, 2011

Doubling Corn Yields Goal of New Program in Rio Grande do Sul

The Secretary of Agriculture in the state of Rio Grande do Sul has launched a program with the goal of doubling the corn yields in the state by the year 2020. During two days of meetings with representatives of various organizations involved in the production and consumption of corn in the state, the Secretary stressed the need to become more productive in corn production in order for the state to take advantage of the increasing world demand for proteins. The state of Rio Grande do Sul has a large livestock industry and it is a major producer of poultry, swine and dairy products.

The need for this program is the fact that the state is deficit in corn production which forces livestock producers in the state to import corn from other regions in Brazil at a very high cost. The state generally produces approximately 5.6 million tons of corn per year, but the domestic consumption is approximately 7 million tons. Since there are no rail lines or barging operations that could bring corn into the state from other regions of Brazil, the corn must be trucked into the state at a substantial cost. If corn producers could double their corn production, the Secretary feels livestock producers in the state could save R$ 80 million per year in transportation costs.

The statewide corn yields in Rio Grande do Sul averages approximately 85 sacks per hectare or 78 bu/ac. The Secretary noted that some progressive farmers in the state have already produced 200 sacks per hectare (185 bu/ac) and that the United States routinely averages about 170 sacks per hectare or 157 bu/ac.

Participants in the meeting agreed that the number one strategy for increasing corn production in the state was more widespread use of irrigation. Over the past decade, the state has suffered two severe drought that significantly reduced corn yields in the state. The soils of the state have a relatively low water holding capacity and the state generally receives the least amount of rainfall during the growing season of any major corn producing state in Brazil. More widespread use if irrigation could help the farmers offset the lack of rainfall that is common in the state. Better use of fertilizers and new seed technologies are also important, but without adequate water, it would be hard to significantly increase corn yields.

One suggestion put forth by the Secretary would be to increase the amount of credit available for the purchase of irrigation systems with a potential rebate of some of the interest cost based on proven increases in corn productivity.