Sunday, March 4, 2018

Porto Alegre and Home

On the last day of our trip we got a quick breakfast and left the town of Passo Fundo to head to the airport in Porto Alegre.  This was about a four hour drive through a rolling area of small farms and forests.  We saw a bit more corn and pasture land on this trip than on our previous ventures.  We noticed some roadside vendors selling beef hides and also a large yard of what looked like Eucalyptus logs.  Eucalyptus is used for a number of things that include burning to dry grain.  Most of the trip was on a two lane winding road and many of the grain trucks from the Passo Fundo area must need to make the same 180 mile trip to the export terminals at Porto Alegre.  Porto Alegre is a city of about 1.4 million located at the junction of five rivers and is also a large port city where soybeans are also exported.

Early in the afternoon, we caught our flight from Porto Alegre to Rio De Janiero and said goodbye to our guide Marcelo Arruda and thanked him and Explorations by Thor for a wonderful experience .

In Rio we had a six hour layover and then an overnight 8 hour flight to Miami.  After a short layover in Miami, we boarded a plane to Baltimore and our group said goodbye to each other there after about 33 hours of traveling.  It was a great trip and we all learned alot about Brazilian soybean production and culture along the way.  Each of us brought back some tidbits that will be useful in our work with soybeans in the future and we all plan to share our experiences with others.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Day 8 Passo Fundo, Cotrijal, and Embrapa Wheat

This was our final day of touring.  We left Passo Fundo early to head an hour or so west to visit with the leadership of a large cooperative called Cotrijal with more than 6000 members and over 460 million in revenues. They were in the process of organizing a large Ag Progress Days type event called Expodirecto Cotrial which attracts more than 200,000 people each year with around $600 million in deals each year.  We met with the Coop leaderships and discussed of the challenges and opportunities the cooperative provides. This was organized more as an independent cooperative like the old Agway stores in PA and they even operated some grocery and hardware stores.  They were advocates new technology and innovation and have staff agronomists that work with members to fine tune management.  Key profit centers were soy, wheat, barley, canola, dairy and pork production.  Soybean yields of coop members are significantly higher than the state average.  After the discussion with the leadership we visited the exposition site and some of the soybean trial plots that were established to showcase insect management. 

We returned to Passo Fundo for lunch and then headed to the EMBRAPA Wheat station for a visit of several field trials and then joined them an indoor session on some research updates.  In the outdoor trials we first saw a demonstration of a planter equipped with an in row subsoiling knife.  Also we reviewed a forage trial and found that 11 cuts of alfalfa are possible in this region producing 12 tons of forage annually. In a third trial we reviewed a crop rotation study that showed when wheat is grown as a winter crop within three years of each other, diseases can have a significant impact on yield.  Wheat is not grown on every farm in the winter and there seems to be more potential to use the winter for crop or cover crop production in the region that is currently being done. 

After several more presentations indoors we had a wrap up session among tour members to review what we had learned on our trip.They had an interesting display of crop root sysems in plexiglas that we viewed. We shared our thoughts on sustainability issues we encountered in Brazilian soybean production, the economics of soybean production, and some of the key take home messages we would be bringing back.

We finished the day with a BBQ at a facility near EMBRAPA Wheat where we thanked our guests for the great visit and hospitality. There was a lot of great one on one engagement here between groups.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Day 7 Falcao and GDM Seeds

We left our hotel in Guarapuava in the Parana state early in morning and traveled for six hours through Santa Catarina to visit a farm near Passo Fundo in the state of Rio Grande du Sul.  We took a quick lunch at a mall along the way that had Subway, McDonalds and Burger King.  A couple of us managed to get an order at Burger King without an interpreter.  Generally the land was rolling in this region with almost everything planted to soybeans.  There was only an occassional corn field.  The farm was the operation of Sementes Falaco, a soybean farm that has done a lot of soil management work.  Fernanda Falcao and her father Mr. Falcao made a presentation describing their efforts to improve soil quality.  They have implemented a combination of carefully designed terraces, no tillage and cover cropping to build soil organic matter and reduce erosion.  They have documented reduced nutrient losses and the ability to save water on the farm.  They have seen consistent improvements in soil test levels and soil carbon accumulations.  Because of the nutrient savings they were able to suspend fertilizer applications for five years following a drought and this had a significant economic impact.

Following this field visit we had made arrangements to visit with representatives from GDM.  GDM is a soybean seed/gentics company that has grown rapidly in South America and is beginning to develop markets in the US.  Rain early in the day made the field road impassible however, so we decided to change plans and meet at a local Pizza shop in Passa Fundo.  The GDM reps were guests of Shaun Heinbaugh, one of our tour participants, who had made contact with GDM representatives in the US prior to the trip.  The reps shared with us some of their breeding objectives and marketing plans for soybean seeds.  They market seeds under two brands, GDM and Donmario.  We learned that in Brazil, soybean genetics must have the same name regardless of who sells them.  In the US, companies can each have a different name on the same genetics.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Day 6 Brazil Contest Winner

Our first stop on this day was to visit one of the soybean growing champions of Brazil.  We traveled about 5 miles off the main road to the farmstead of the family.  They had prepared a nice breakfast of treats and drinks for us.  They described their farming operation and then went over the details of the soybean contest field that yielded 136 bushels/acre.  Some of his secrets to success were building soil fertility over a long period, minimizing compaction, superior varieties and using a special inoculant. We had the opportunity to ask many questions and then headed to the field to examine some of his variety plots and the new contest area.  The growing season has been wet and the soybeans were tall and lodging with a fair amount of white mold.  We also noticed that the lower nodes on the bottom 10 inches had few pods.  They attributed this to wet weather after emergence.
From there we headed to lunch in Guarapuava.   This town was mostly a German immigrant city that was started with the immigration of 500 German families in 1951.  After lunch we visited the Agraria Coop.  This is a modern and innovative coop that has 600 members.  It has a corn mill, malt facility, soy crushing plant, feed mill, seed production facility, dairy and hog slaughtering facility.  In addition they have a private research foundation called FAPA that supports growers with applied research and advisory services.  The cooperative is able to coordinate the entire production process from planting to harvest to processing to marketing the end products.  A quality control lab ensures that products are high quality.  This is much different from Pennsylvania where these are disconnected.

From the Coop we visited the FAPA research center where they were preparing for a large field day.  We had some indepth discussions of disease and weed management with their scientists.  There is a real need here to use IPM to manage weeds and diseases.

After the meeting we headed to the hotel and then to a German restaurant/microbrewer where we had a short tour of the brewery and a traditional German meal.


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

day 5 Franke Dijkstra

On day 5, we left Curitiba and traveled an hour or so to another town called Ponto Grossa to visit a famous no-till farmer named Frank Dykstra and his son Richard and grandson Edward who operate two farms on his land now. Frank has been to Pennsylvania and knows Steve Groff and Sjoerd Duiker. Frank also emphasized the need for IPM in managing insects and diseases.  We were joined by several Embrapa representatives who showed us some of the insects in the field and also what soybean rust looks like.  Frank also discussed in detail the local cooperative and the relationship between the farmers and the cooperative. Their cooperative is a valuable tool for their production.  They market grain, sell fertilizer, develop value added opportunities and also conduct considerable research as part of an independent foundation called the ABC Foundation which is funded by the farmers. Their work is used as a basis of variety selection and pesticide recommendations on many farms here.
  We had a nice description of the farming operation by Richard and then a presentation on the evolution of no-till in Brazil by Frank.  They grow soybeans, corn and edible soybeans in the summer and wheat, barley in the winter. They use black oats in the winter and pearl millet in the summer as cover crops. Frank emphasized that Brazilian soils are fragile and prone to erosion.  Also residue decomposition is high, so you need to maximize the return of crop residues to the field.  After the presentation, we toured some of the soybean fields on the farm.  The farm has much more rolling land than we saw in the Cerrado and was much like Pennsylvania in that regard. 

After lunch at a local hotel we participated in a discussion and presentation on sustainable soybean production with researchers from Embrapa Soybeans.  We reviewed the critical need for IPM, importance of roots and straw in no-till Brazilian soybean production.   We also learned about inoculant use here and some of the new combinations that they are working with.

In the late afternoon and evening we met with several Monsanto representatives led by Antonio Pierro who were arranged by Jim Valent, one of our tour participants who also works for Monsanto.  They took us to a farm where they are doing work with variety evaluation and introduction their Climate program and Fieldview software. The farm owner and his son Cassio Kossatz presented their operations.  The farm was also striving for high soybean yields.  Cassio has been equipping all of his machinery with GPS to develop mapping for each operation and using Field View to link all of the data together. Precision ag here is a few years behind the US but catching up rapidly.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Day 4 Natural Resource and Port Visit

On day 4 our plan was to visit the port of Paranagua to get an appreciation of the soybean export trade. The port of Paranagua is about an hour drive across a coastal mountain range from Curitiba where we are staying.  Most of the soybeans in this state of Parana must be trucked through this mountain range to the port.  To get to the port, we arranged to take a tourist train through a national park refuge in the Atlantic forest.  The train trip lasted four hours and allowed us to see the lush rain forest in the coastal mountain range.  As we headed down, we saw many spectacular views of the rugged landscape.  The tour ended in a small town called Morretes near the port city of Paranagua where we had lunch at a local restaurant.

Our next stop was the port of Paranagua.  Paranagua is the most important grain port in South America.  It is a multi-modal port for imports and exports.  They work with soybean, soybean meal, sugar, corn, fertilizers, salt, frozen products (poultry) and vehicles. More than half of the raw material for fertilizer for Brazil comes through this port. 16% of Brazils GDP moves through this port. They work 24 hours a day in four shifts. The receiving capacity is about 2800 trucks a day.  Brazilian soybean trucks have up to 9 axles in tandem rigs that hold up to 70 metric tons.  We saw many of these making their way to the port down a winding interstate through the mountain on the way home.
At the port we arranged for a boat to give us a tour of the ships loading at the docks.  We saw soybeans, sugar, and containers being loaded on 10 ships at the same time.  Tugboats move the ships off the docks during an hour long process. It takes 45 days for these ships to get to China and 15 days to get to the US.   We watched one ship leaving the port and could see others in the distance waiting to come in.   

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Day 3 Brazilian Ag Economics and Policy

We got up early and headed on a domestic flight south to Curitiba.  Once we got settled into another hotel the  group was able to meet with Pedro Loyola the technical economic department coordinator for the equivalent of our Farm Bureau. It was  lengthy discussion about the total Brazilian Ag situation.
Pedro detailed that Brazil is ranked 2nd in corn and soybean production in the world.  If you check out his slide you will also note some surprising information on other commodities as well such as milk and chicken.
According t o Peddro, the myth of the continuing  deforestation of the forested areas (including the Amazon) is simply not true. However the farmers he represents are under pressure about the environmental regulations.  In fact 65% of the land is in forest today. Regulations also are enforced to keep forests on each farm as something they call The Forest Code.  A farmer in the Amazon needs to maintain (on his or her own money) 80% of his owned land in forested natural areas! In other biomes this requirement is different.  In Parana, for example, the forested requirement is 20%. He was a strong advocate for public education and outreach to better educate critics of Brazilian Agriculture. We were amazed by the total Ag production however they do have many challenges.  Once of which is their transportation system and storage of grains.