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Report: Global warming may cut Brazilian soybean production by 80%

Report: Global warming may cut Brazilian soybean production by 80%
Researchers may need to develop crops that withstand weather volatility.

Each national team parading in the Rio 2016 opening Olympic ceremony was accompanied by a child carrying a seedling. It was a symbol in Brazil’s decidedly low-cost event that this would be the green games, with an eye on global warming. As a result, organizers say each tree accompanying each national team will be planted in an Olympic garden near the stadium.

What’s more, a Brazilian federal agency recently authorized vehicles used in the Games to burn a 20% biodiesel blend—far higher than the generally-allowed 8%. Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency estimates some 1.6 million gallons of the 20% biodiesel blend will be used for the games.

Tougher to make a profit

Brazilian researchers will have to put in an Olympian effort to overcome climate change. (Photo courtesy: Agencia Brasil)

So it’s interesting Brazil’s government ag research agency—Embrapa—recently came out with its estimate of the effect of global warming on that country’s agriculture. The report indicates global warming will cut Brazil’s soybean production by 80% by 2085. And it may not be necessary to wait even that long to see the effects. The report indicates Brazil’s corn planted area will suffer a 9% reduction by 2025 as a result of climate change.

Climate change is forecast to change rainfall patterns so that more soybean production moves into northern Mato Grosso. Weather conditions are predicted to become more variable, making it harder to plant a crop and the make a profit.

 “Chances for crop losses and weather conditions are very volatile,” says Embrapa researcher Eduardo Monteiro, who participated in the study. “Sometimes you’ll have good years and bad years, but the frequency of the bad years goes up, and, overall, suggests lower production.”

Inputs and tech

The result of greater weather pressure on Brazilian beans and corn could be a switch of research focus toward developing more resistant crops that can withstand long dry periods and hotter weather. An example would be a push to come up with a Brazilian corn variety with greater root development to reach deeper into the soil for moisture.

If global warming over the coming years brings about widespread weather volatility, as foreseen in the study, Team Brazil will indeed have a challenge on its hands to overcome its effects. With little crop insurance and little farm diversification from soybeans and corn, researchers will have to put in a gold medal effort to maintain production in the medium and long terms.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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