Cuiaba, Brazil

Sunday, Feb. 4

We left the Campo Verde hotel at 8 a.m. We headed to the next farm on a blacktop highway. Before we got to the farm, we drove on another red dirt road for several miles. As we rode, I noticed that the land in the area slopes enough and has enough gentle roll to provide fairly good drainage. The soil in the area absorbs water quickly after heavy rains.

I also noticed 3 or 4 Emus walking through the soybeans at a number of locations. One of the fellows at the next stop said the Emus do not hurt the crops and they help to get ride of the snakes. Snakes! I said, what kind. He said, oh all kinds including rattlers. The fellow was a soil conservationist and he said it was a lot easier and safer to walk the fields since the Emus are in the area. The Emu looks about like an ostrich.

We saw workers in various fields hoeing weeds, and we saw lots of cotton in various stages of growth.

Farm Visit #7

As we neared this farm, we saw at least four or five crop-dusting planes spraying over cotton fields.

This farmer operates what I would consider a medium-size farm for the area. He has 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres) of soybeans and 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) of cotton. This soil looks like a sandy loam and dries out quickly. The farm is all no-till, and the soils look great for no-till. They have no emergence problem because it is always warm weather.

The farmer has a relatively new 5 hectares (12.35 acres) vineyard. He is looking for additional ways to supplement his income. The experts tell him that grape growing in this area cannot be successful. He is trying to prove them wrong.

He estimates his soybean yields are about 55 bushels/acre. He uses Roundup for burndown and various herbicides after planting. His rotation allows three crops in two years. He also said good tractor drivers earn about $200/month plus house plus meals. His soybean fertilizer program is 500 kilograms/hectare of 0-20-20 plus micronutrients and sulfur. He does not use nitrogen on soya. This calculates to about 0-89-89/acre. His pH is about 6.5, and he applies limestone when needed. The soil is very deep with no rocks. We were told that the soil is about 35% clay, 60% sand and 5% organic matter. Corn yields are about 113 bushels/acre.

Farm Visit #8

We briefly stopped at the next farm to look at corn being harvested with two New Holland combines. It was Sunday, and the machines were not running. This farm has 4,500 hectares (11,111 acres). Estimated corn yield was 6,600 kilograms/hectare (105 bushels/acre).

Farm Visit #9

It is about 12:30 p.m. as we drive into the building site of the next farm. The farm’s name is IBF. Mr. Milton who lives in Sao Paulo owns the farm. He is a doctor and owns a graphic arts and medical film business. He is 85 years old and purchased the farm about 50 years ago.

The farm totals about 12,300 hectares (30,393 acres). There are about 6,000 hectares of soybeans (14,826 acres). The farm has 85 employees and 25,000 tons of grain production. They use a soybean-corn-cotton rotation. Estimated yields of soybeans are 3,000 kilograms/hectare (44 bushels/acre). They estimate they produce 13,200 tons of soybeans/year. They said they have two_ crops/year with a millet-soybean-corn rotation.

IBF has a total of 28,000 hectares 69,180 acres in the state of Mato Grosso.

They employee a general manager for the farm. The farm has 10,000 acres of pasture and 3,000 acres of forest. It also has 37 miles of roads. They have a swine facility with 6,000 heads, 770 sows, 35 boars and an annual production of about 16,000 hogs/year.

A special soil conservation consultant, Dr. Joao Carlos de Moraes Sa advises the manager on the agronomic practices. He obtained his doctorate from Ohio State and is very knowledgeable about soils in Mato Grosso.

Dr. de Moraes Sa said organic matter is the key survival question! Because this is a temperate- zone, the organic matter can be reduced 50% within five years if the soils are not properly handled. No-till allows for a considerable reduction in the loss of organic matter. The heat and high rainfall causes increased loss of organic matter. Annual rainfall is 1,500 millimeters (59 in.). He said that all of this farm’s crops are no-till. They were conventional tillage until 1997.

We heard him and other Brazilian farmers say that the natural pH is in the range of 3.9 to 4.5. Currently, the pH on this farm is in the area of 5.7. When new land is brought into crops, 5 to 6 tons of lime are applied per hectare (2.6 tons U.S.). They expect to lime every 4 years. The lime pit is about 300 kilometers (186 miles) from the farm. He expects to apply 1.5 metric tons per hectare every two years.

We also saw Emus on this farm. The soil conservationist said they like the Emus because they eat the snakes. He says he can scout the fields with less concern for the rattlers. He said that the rainforest begins in the north end of the state of Mato Grosso and has up to 3,000 millimeters (118 inches) of rainfall/year.

Once again, all soybeans from this farm are trucked to Port of Paranagua, a distance of 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles). All grain is sold f.o.b. the farm.

Cost of land to lease is about 8 bags of soybeans containing 60 kilograms/hectare (about 7.138 bushels/acre). In some cases, leased land may go for as high as 9 or 10 bags per hectare. This computes to 8 to 8.9 bushels/acre. After a huge lunch of beef barbecue and all the trimmings that took nearly two hours to eat, we left the farm for visit at Tamil.

Non-farm Commercial Stop #3

The last stop on Sunday afternoon was at Tamil Corp. They buy and store up to 60,000 tons of corn. Inventory is turned two times a year. They also buy sorghum (milo). They manufacture animal feeds, grits for corn flakes and cereals and grits for industrial use. They manufacture many kinds of feeds. They are looking for additional export markets. We viewed a video that I sent to you. We toured the facility.

We left the Tamil Corporation about 5:30 p.m. for a three-hour drive back to Cuiaba. The road was rough, and we were in heavy traffic most of the way to Cuiaba. We arrived at the hotel at about 9:15. We started the day at 6:45 a.m. – a long day again, but we sure had two days jam-packed with soybeans and the related agriculture industries.

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This online exclusive is being re-published with permission from Soybean Digest . Some minor revisions have been made by BEEF magazine editors.

For 2002 Travel Plans to South America see: