May 24, 2024

Approximately 40% of Soy in Brazil Followed by Double Crop Corn

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

The trend in Brazil in recent years has been for farmers to be more productive with the land that has already been cleared instead of clearing more land. It allows for more sustainable crop production while decreasing the level of deforestation. Brazilian researchers and farmers have already made great strides in sustainability by producing three quarters of Brazil's corn as a double crop following soybeans.

Brazilian scientists have developed short-cycle soybean and corn varieties adopted to the tropical environment in central Brazil allowing for more of the soybeans to be followed by a second crop of corn.

During the 2022/23 growing season, safrinha corn was planted on approximately 40% of the soybean acreage in Brazil. The state of Mato Grosso had the highest percentage soybeans followed by corn at 64.2% followed by Mato Grosso do Sul at 60.4%. This double crop system prevented millions of hectares of land being cleared to produce corn.

A typical farm in Mato Grosso might produce 3,500 kg/ha of soybeans (52 bu/ac) followed by producing 6-7,000 kg/ha of corn (95 to 111 bu/ac). The municipality of Sorriso in central Mato Grosso has the largest soybean acreage and safrinha corn acreage of any municipality in Brazil.

Utilizing short cycle crops and irrigation, it is becoming more feasible to produce two or even three crops per year in the cerrado region of central Brazil. Irrigation allows farmers to continue producing crops during the annual dry season (June to September) when the temperatures are suitable for crop production, but rainfall is absent.

The Brazilian national agricultural research service, Embrapa, has laid out a schedule on how to produce three crops per year in central Brazil. Start by planting early maturing soybeans as soon as possible after September 15th, which is the first day most farmers in Mato Grosso are allowed to plant soybeans.

Those soybeans could then be harvested in late December or early January and immediately followed by planting early maturing corn. The corn could then be harvested by late May or early June. For the third crop, there could be a variety of choices such as dry beans, grain sorghum, millet, sesame, or wheat. The third crop would be harvested in early September before the next soybean crop is planted.

This planting scheme looks feasible on paper, but in reality, it would require a high level of management skill and a hefty dose of good luck. The biggest problem might be wet weather during the soybean harvest. Late December and early January can be the peak of the rainy season in central Brazil. If the soybean harvest is delayed for two weeks due to wet weather, then there would probably not be enough time for the third crop.

The environmental impact of these double cropping systems is tremendous. It greatly reduces deforestation while allowing for increased grain production in areas that have already been cleared, which is what many consumers in the world are demanding. Additionally, most of the expansion of soybean acreage in Brazil is the result of the conversion of degraded pastures to row crop production.