Jan 12, 2023

Brazilian Farmers and Ranchers Investing in Irrigation

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

The Brazilian government is encouraging farmers and ranchers to increase productivity on their existing land to reduce the pressure on the clearing of new land. A key part of that increase in productivity is the incorporation of irrigation. Irrigation not only increases yields, but it also allows farmers to extend the growing season into the annual dry season, especially in the cerrado regions of central Brazil.

Approximately 8 million hectares are currently irrigated in Brazil between the use of center pivots and flood irrigation. Center pivot systems are used for row crop production throughout Brazil and flood irrigation is used mainly for rice production in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul.

According to MapBiomas, between 1985 and 2021 the amount of acreage irrigated with center pivots in Brazil went from 804,000 hectares in 1985 to 3.29 million hectares in 2021. According to the commercial director of Valley Irrigation, there are approximately 28,000 center pivot systems installed in Brazil. Over the years, the area under center pivot irrigation had been increasing 150,000 to 200,000 hectares per year, but in recent years, that has increased to 400,000 hectares per year. Near record high commodity prices have allowed farmers to invest in new irrigation systems.

Irrigation systems were traditionally installed in existing crop areas, but ranchers are now using irrigation to increase the carrying capacity of their pastures. Pasture irrigation had historically represented only 1% of center pivot sales, but that has now increased to 5% of sales.