Aug 08, 2023

Wheat Following Soybeans in Central Brazil Gaining Popularity

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

Wheat is the major crop for which Brazil is not self-sufficient, but that may change within a few years. Research conducted over the last few decades indicate the potential for producing wheat as a second crop following soybeans in the higher elevations of central Brazil.

Embrapa has released new wheat varieties specifically developed for planting in the cerrado regions of central Brazil at elevations above 800 meters. Most of Brazil's wheat is currently produced in southern Brazil and is known as winter wheat. The wheat developed for central Brazil is more tolerant to higher temperatures and is being called tropical wheat.

Dryland wheat in central Brazil can yield 35 to 65 sacks per hectare (31 to 58 bu/ac) with yields as high as 100 sacks per hectare for irrigated wheat (89 bu/ac). The national average wheat yield in Brazil is approximately 50 sacks per hectare (44.7 bu/ac).

Wheat produced as a second crop in central Brazil is used for bread and is of high quality because it matures and is harvested during the dry season. Wheat grown in southern Brazil often is of poor quality due to potential heavy rains at harvest. There are between 200-250,000 hectares of wheat currently grown in the cerrado region of central Brazil.

Planting wheat as a second crop, or safrinha, in central Brazil in rotation with corn or grain sorghum helps to break pest and disease cycles and reduces risks. It would also be the first wheat harvested in Brazil, which could command a premium from millers. Dryland wheat in central Brazil is a low investment crop especially compared to safrinha corn.

It is recommended that the wheat be planted during the month of March and be harvested during June or July. Wheat could be planted later than safrinha corn which would allow farmers to plant longer maturity soybean varieties, which are generally higher yielding. Farmers who plant safrinha corn following soybeans need to plant early or extra-early soybean varieties to have enough time for the safrinha corn to mature before the onset of the dry season.

Researchers recommend that the wheat be planted no-till to keep the soil covered and to conserve soil moisture. The wheat straw would keep the soil surface covered and help to reduce soil erosion when the summer rains return.

Millers have been encouraging wheat production in central Brazil to save on transportation costs instead of trucking in flower, or wheat, from southern Brazil. Flower produced in central Brazil could also be transported to northeastern Brazil at lower costs.