Brazilian farmers’ soy and corn yields have been on the rise, according to data from Conab, an agency of that country’s Ministry of Agriculture. Conab just issued a report putting numbers to the yield growth numbers, and it’s clear that not only are acres on the rise for both soybeans and corn, but productivity is up, too.
As the country produces ever more second-crop corn, which depends on planting short-cycle beans early and getting second-crop corn in the ground in time to be safely matured by the time the rainy season ends, the amount of inputs used can vary widely. And the second-crop corn, of course, typically responds to greater or lesser applications. Last cycle, for example, producers applied fewer inputs as it became clear things were drying up earlier than hoped.
The yield rise
Even so, improved varieties and a greater use of inputs across both corn crops has raised Brazil’s national average corn yield from 53 bushels per acre in 2003-04 to 81 bushels per acre last year, despite the dry weather.
Bean yields have also climbed, though less dramatically—and with fewer steep jumps and drop-offs. They’ve gone from 34.6 bushels per acre to 45.2 bushels per acre over the same period.
David Asbridge of NPK-FAS, a consulting group, explains it this way: “There is a definite causal link between the increased fertilizer use in Brazil and the increased yield per acre. Opening new land would pull the average down if farmers were not using the fertility practices that they have learned to use on their existing acreage. Of course, that is not the only item to be yield enhancing. Better seed technology would be one of the other primary drivers as farmers use better and better seed as well.”
Professor Dejalma Zimmer of the Federal University of Pelotas, in Rio Grande do Sul, agrees it’s important to remember these numbers are national averages spread over older, more fertile acres, and virgin land or former pasture that just doesn’t deliver as well for the first years in a crop. He says about 12% of Brazil’s soybean area is producing more than 67 bushels per acre; 13% is yielding from 53 to 66 bushels per acre; and another 20% makes from 44½ to 52 bushels per acre.
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.