Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Brazil Farmers Remain Optimistic, Embrapa Trials | by Kelly Downing

I was in Brazil a couple weeks ago, meeting with rice growers and researchers. The market for rice was relatively weak in Brazil this season, similar to that in the USA in 2011. As a result, most of the commercial growers we have worked with in the past reduced rice acreage in favor of soybean and corn production. However, as I visited with them, they are still optimistic about growing rice under center pivots, and intend to return to the crop next season, as part of their regular rotation.

On March 6, I attended the Expodireto agricultural show, in Rio Grande do Sul state, which was very impressive. Lots of ag equipment manufacturers, including center pivot companies. The grounds are beautifully landscaped, and the streets are paved, which is a big change from most farm shows here in the USA, and it cuts down greatly on the dust. Although it was extremely hot (>90 F), there was a large crowd. It seemed to me to reflect great optimism among the Brazilian farmers—prices are good, profits are up and they are investing in the future.

I also met with researchers who are working on several projects and attended a field day. Embrapa is a Brazilian federal ag research corporation, and they have a temperate climate research center near Pelotas. Their rice field day on March 9 was very well attended. They devoted one of the four main tour stops to the work they are doing under a linear. These studies include variety trials, fertility studies, irrigation scheduling strategy, greenhouse gas production and their efforts to transfer nitrogen-fixing bacteria into rice roots.

At another of their research stations, near Bage´, they are working on variety trials and rotation studies, to help farmers optimize crop rotations that include rice, soybeans, and forage crops. This is a region with a historically strong cattle industry, but rice and soybeans are beginning to expand acreage in the area, so this research is very important to the future of the ag economy there.

The rice harvest was just beginning, and will probably last at least through March and into our spring. The plots at Pelotas will be harvested by the end of this month or so, and we will have some data to improve our knowledge of how things went. Although their plots looked great and appeared very productive, it is always good to have the real data to confirm your expectations.

So, here we are at the cusp of spring in the USA. A new growing season is almost upon us and everyone is again optimistic. We anticipate several new cooperators who will plant rice under center pivots this year in the USA. I look forward, like you do, to seeing how things play out, and I am excited about working our way through the season together.