Traveling around Brazil's grain belt and talking to farmers, it is obvious that the level of technology and crop management employed in soybean production has grown significantly over the past five years.
Farmers are now starting to look into introducing precision farming for their crops, but may run into a problem.
For while Brazilian farmers can now ascertain the nutrients present in each subdivision of each acre, there is far from a consensus about exactly how much there should be, notes Joaquim Mariano Costa, head of the experimental farm at Coamo, Brazil's largest grain cooperative.
"The technology has run ahead of research in this case," Costa told DTN on his experimental farm in Campo Mourao, northwestern Parana.
For example, the amount and type of phosphates that need to be applied varies greatly, depending on the type of mineral and soil. That has not been mapped out properly for many regions, said the researcher.
This is just one of the many areas where there is a lack of independent research in Brazilian grain farming.
"Brazilian farms and cooperatives are far too reliant on research from farm tech and chemical firms that have a vested interest," noted Costa, who leads one of the few independent farm-led research projects here.
Embrapa, Brazil's federal crop research agency, is responsible for leading those efforts, but, in the words of Costa, over the last 20 years they have become more worried about big questions and less focused on day-to-day challenges facing farmers.
"For example, Embrapa has not developed practical research on what crop cycle length works best for a succession of soybeans followed by a corn second crop," he noted, adding that too many farmers are still double cropping on the basis of trial and error.
Farming soybeans in Brazil is now a multi-billion dollar industry. The incentive to increase independent research is certainly there.
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