Brazil farm businessmen visit FD

A chief executive officer from Brazil said Thursday that his company is in a constant search for better hybrids, higher yields, farming efficiencies through precision agriculture and maintaining soil health.

He sounds like an Iowa farmer, but it was Aurelio Pavinato, CEO of SLC Agricola S.A., South America’s largest grower and marketer of cotton and soybeans.

Pavinato and other company representatives were in Fort Dodge Thursday to speak to members of Ag Leaders, the agriculture committee for the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.

The Brazilians were in Iowa at the invitation of Ron Mortensen, of Advantage Agricultural Strategies, in Fort Dodge. Mortensen said the group was touring the U.S. meeting with farmers and ag businesses. He said he has a friendship with SLC employees and invited them to Fort Dodge.

SLC owns and operates its own farms, leases others and manages others in joint ventures with investors, including Mitsui Co. in Japan.

It owns and/or manages 17 farms, encompassing 344,000 hectares, roughly 860,000 acres in 2012.

The company grows cotton, soybeans and corn in a three-crop rotation. Some of its farms, located in the fertile Matto Grosso region, double crop each season, rotating cotton/soybeans, followed by cotton/corn.

Other regions, as in southern Brazil, grow one crop per season using the three-crop rotation.

Pavinato said each of the company’s 17 farms have research plots where they test new hybrids and new farm products.

Emerson Wohlenberg, SLC’s market analyst, said information learned from the plots are shared with neighboring farmers.

Wohlenberg said it was necessary to assure new hybrids are properly suited to Brazil’s soil types and climate.

According to Pavinato, the company is currently working to find shorter-season hybrids, especially for cotton and soybeans.

Among the three crops, soybeans is its leading product. Pavinato said SLC’s farms yielded between 44 to 53 bushels per acre during the 2012-2013 growing season.

The average U.S. bean yield was 42 bpa.

Brazil, as a whole, surpassed the U.S. in soybean production for the first time ever in 2013.

Pavinato said cotton provides SLC’s largest revenue stream: 59 percent of total income in 2013 and an estimated 51 percent in 2014.

The company’s cotton yields range from 2.66 to 3.23 500-pound bales per acre.

The U.S. yield is 1.7 bales per acre.

In corn, SLC’s first season yields range from 152 to 167 bpa.

The average U.S. 2013 yield was 148.

Pavinato said second season corn yields about 101 bpa, but it costs less to grow.

According to Wohlenberg, second-season crops are considered less costly because the labor is already on the farm, whether there’s a crop or not.

All no-till

SLC farms, Pavinato said, practice no-till farming with cover crops – millet, usually – on single-crop fields.

That’s because the heavy tropical rainfalls, he said, requires the least amount of tillage and as much residue left on the surface as possible.

In addition, he said the soil in new ag land is poor for agriculture, being high in iron and aluminum.

It requires a minimum of three years of applying large amounts of phosphorus and potassium to get soils into better production.

Transportation

Pavinato said the biggest challenge to Brazil’s production agriculture is the lack of roads and rail service from the county’s interior to shipping ports.

He said grain trucks will caravan from Matto Grosso to its nearest shipping port a total of 1,300 miles in one direction, then turn around for another load.

The country is also developing three new shipping ports and working toward more roads to facilitate getting crop from the interior to markets.

Pavinato said China, the biggest importer of Brazilian and U.S. soybeans, is assisting the country in developing more rail service to increase timeliness for hauling grain to shipping ports.

The Brazilians were also scheduled Thursday to tour the ethanol plants of Valero and Cargill, CJ BioAmerica, Brokaw Supply and a few Webster County farms.