January 17, 2009

Three Crops per Year?

THURSDAY, JANUARY 15—We met on Thursday afternoon in Lucas do Rio Verde with a Foundation that essentially serves as extension education for Brazil—especially in the Lucas area. The city of Lucas is actually less than thirty years old—but it has become a thriving city with an economy based on agriculture. In effect, Lucas is a bit like an agricultural industrial park—with virtually every major agribusiness represented, from Cargill to Bunge, from Sadia to Syngenta and Monsanto.

The Foundation is supported by contributions from agribusiness as well as through a “checkoff” paid by ag producers. The facility we visited included several research plots of corn, soybeans, rice, etc.

With its climate, Brazil can actually grow two crops a year—which typically are soybeans (soja) and corn (milho). However, they are working to develop a triple-cropping system in which they plant grass with the corn. Once the corn is harvested, cattle are turned out on the grass as pasture. Naturally, those of us who fight grasses and weeds in cornfields wondered about the effect of the grasses on corn yields, but the value of the grass in terms of cattle production apparently overcomes the yield drag on the corn. At least that’s the theory.

PHOTO 1: Three members of the Illinois team in front of a research cornfield. L to R: Paul Taylor, Gary Schmalshof, Jim Robbins
PHOTO 2: The Illinois team inspecting a research field of soybeans, apparently forgetting which commodity paid their way on this trip!
PHOTO 3: The Iowa team poses in front of a research field. L to R: Mindy Larsen Poldberg, Don Elsbernd, Bert Vandenberg, Roger Knoblock
PHOTO 4: Two members of the Nebraska team. L to R: Randy Urmacher, Dave Merrell

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