In 2014 Brazil made it to the top of the global soybean-production league. The country’s farmers are world champions – like their soccer players. The most recent harvest yielded more than 80 million tons of the golden beans. Modern, yield-enhancing technologies from Bayer helped to achieve this result.
Two players from “Soja-Seleção”, the soybean team, work in the federal state of Paraná. “Our family has been here for three generations,” says Valdir Lazarini, the owner of a farm in the Santa Tereza do Oeste district. The farm covers an area of 1,200 hectares and its main focus is on soybean production. It also produces corn, wheat, oats, beans and beef. Today, Lazarini’s son, Vinicius Formighieri, manages the agricultural production activities. Aged 26, he is an academic agronomist and has quite a few ideas for making further improvements to the family farm. “I’ve already achieved a lot in crop and meat production and in terms of making production on the farm more environmentally aware as a whole,” he says.
The Lazarinis’ main concern is to farm their land more sustainably – and that means more sustainable soybean growing too. “We’ve been farming the land for over thirty years now,” says Lazarini. “And we’ve always made sure to protect the environment as well.” The federal state of Paraná also does a lot to protect the region’s plant and animal life. Farmers are required to leave 20 percent of their agricultural land unworked to create a nature reserve. This is a provision of the Brazilian forest code.
In fact, 21 percent of the Lazarini property is designated as a legal reserve. “This part of the farm is a closed area that only wild animals have access to,” Lazarini explains. Native vegetation and natural springs form a densely vegetated riparian forest along a river that goes on for kilometers. This creates a biological corridor that enables wild animals to move freely throughout the region. These zones also prevent field water run-off from flowing directly into the rivers. “The biological corridors lead from one property to the next and are interconnected. They allow wild animals to move freely between the farms,” Lazarini says.
And we’ve always made sure to protect the environment as well.
“In Brazil we have created legislation in a sector that was previously completely unregulated,” explains Robert Rodrigues, Brazil’s minister for agriculture from 2003 to 2006. This strategy is already producing results as, every year, the farm run by the Lazarinis produces what the young farmer refers to as the “farmer’s reward.” “I think the greatest honor a farmer can achieve is to see a rich harvest – the fruits of his labor – at the end of the season,” he says.
But farmers need the right variety of soybean if they are to produce good yields. Bayer CropScience has opened a new soy seed research center just outside the town of Cascavel. “Our researchers aim to select plants capable of producing high yields in the climate of southern Brazil. The plants also need to be resistant to major diseases and be suitable for early harvesting,” says Daniel Gobbi, soybean seed manager for southern Brazil. Although the region around Cascavel offers favorable conditions for soybean production, farmers here prefer quickly ripening varieties, because planting these also allows an earlier harvest of the second crop before the frosty weather starts affecting the district in May, June and July.
We’ve preserved sixty-eight million
Lazarini combines high-yielding soybean varieties with a program of integrated crop management comprising crop rotation adapted to the location, selection of the best varieties and targeted crop protection measures, something for which Bayer CropScience offers solutions. “Over 60 percent of the crop protection products we use come from Bayer,” says the young soybean farmer. The annual rural show in Cascavel illustrates just how important the crop protection experts are for local agriculture. The show is organized by Coopavel, one of Brazil’s largest cooperatives.
In early 2014, field staff from Bayer CropScience welcomed visitors from all over the world to the company’s booth at the fair. They tend several small demonstration fields in the vicinity of the booth all year round and show best-practice options for soybean farming. “We concentrate on insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and seed growth,” explains Everton Queiroz from Bayer CropScience in Brazil, “but our experts also advise farmers around the world.”
Integrated crop protection and high-yielding, fast-growing soybean varieties that are resistant to disease are the factors that make sustainable production of the crop possible. If productivity had not improved in the past 20 years, Brazil would need another 68 million hectares of arable land to produce the soybean harvest that is possible today. “We have boosted productivity in this country so much that today we are able to preserve these 68 million hectares of land as an environmental resource. That’s truly sustainable agriculture,” says former agriculture minister Rodrigues.