Brazil is the world's second-largest soybean producing country, second only to the United States, as well as the largest soybean exporting country. Thanks to its natural advantages and government policy support, the competitiveness and influence of Brazil's soybean industry is growing every year. However, the volume of soybean production in the country has been affected by various diseases, with Asian Rust being the biggest threat that might lead to a substantial fall in output or even cause the crop to fail in an extreme case scenario.
In this special issue on Latin America, AgroPages has invited Brazilian National Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) and Brazilian National Food Supply Corporation (Conab) to give us an introduction to soybean plantations in Brazil, as well as pesticide applications for major diseases, focusing on soybean rust. Bayer, ADAMA, BASF, FMC, and Rotam have also been invited to share their successful solutions. In addition, AgroPages will analyze the global agricultural product trade pattern, such as how the Chinese soybean import policy will impact soybean planting in Brazil.
1. Soybean Plantation
1.1 Regional Distribution
|Figure 1 Distribution of soybean production regions
The actual main production region is located in Midwest Brazil, which includes the states of MT, MS, and GO, where the soybean planting area and output account for approximately 45% of the total area and output of the country. Because this area is primarily a shrub savanna, it is easy to reclaim the land. Therefore, the region has become the focus of an increasing number of plantations, but the per-unit output has not reached a desirable level because of the strong acidity of savanna soil and inadequate storage for fertilizers. After the Brazilian government issued permits for land reclamation based on quotas, the planting area in Midwest Brazil increased due to the economic benefits derived from soybean plantation. The output in this region has gradually surpassed that of the southern and southeastern parts of Brazil, making it a prime soybean region in the country. The details are shown in Figure 1 and Table 1.
The second main soybean production area is located in southern Brazil, which has a subtropical climate with high humidity. The climate suits the cultivation of soybeans, and the soil fertility is high. Southern and southeastern Brazil have traditionally been important soybean cultivation regions. The area mainly comprises the states of RS, SC, and PR, accounting for some 35% of the total cultivation area of Brazil.
The third main production region is in northern and northeastern Brazil, comprising mainly the states of MA, PI, TO, and BA, accounting for around 10.8% of the country's total cultivation area.
The fourth main production region is in southeastern Brazil, which mainly includes the states of SP and MG, accounting for 7% of the total planting area of Brazil.
A division of the output of each Brazilian state reveals that 78% of the total soybean output of the country comes from the states of MT, PR, RS, GO, and MS.
1.2 Planting Area
The area under soybean cultivation has continued to expand over the years. In the 2006-2015 period, the compound annual growth reached 5.3%. The high growth rate has helped to narrow the gap between Brazil and the United States from time to time, resulting in an almost even situation between the two countries in 2015. According to the latest Conab report, the area under soybean cultivation in Brazil increased 3.4% in the 2015/16 period, touching 33.1 million hectares and forecast to reach 33.6 million hectares in the 2016/17 crop season. The details are shown in Figure 2.
1.3 Soybean Variety
According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), 91.9% of the soybeans planted in Brazil were GM variety in the 2014/15 crop season. Southern Brazil has the highest adoption rate for GM soybeans compared with other regions, reaching more than 95%. In the relatively new northern production region of Brazil, 80% of the soybean crop is grown with GM varieties. Bruno Valentim Gomes, an Agronomist Analyst at CONAB who introduced us the main soybean varieties in each region. The details are shown in Table 2.
Additionally, Brazilian agriculture consultancy Celeres said the glyphosate-resistant GM soybean seeds currently planted account for 94% of the total planted soybean crop. After two decades of centralized use, the effect of glyphosate-resistant GM soybean seeds has weakened. Multinationals have started developing new variants to seize the first market opportunity.
|Bruno Valentim Gomes
Agronomist Analyst at CONAB
In preparation for the forthcoming October sowing season, Bayer CropScience is planning to launch a Liberty herbicide (active ingredient: glufosinate) resistant soybean seed, which offers farmers another chance after planting Monsanto’s glyphosate-resistant varieties.
BASF is also planning to launch herbicide-resistant varieties, which have the Cultivance trait developed by Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation Embrapa. The trait, combining four kinds of genetic resources from GM seeds with genetic latent energy, is resistant to the spectrum herbicide SoyvancePré, used for controlling broad leaf and grassy weeds.
Monsanto also released a GM soybean seed back in April this year, called Intacta, which could help Brazilian farmers controlinsect pests effectively.
2. Major Soybean Diseases and Solutions
Researcher from Embrapa Soybean
“Diseases vary by region due to the large variation in weather conditions. The breeding programs in Brazil have focused on incorporating disease resistance in their elite genetic material, wherever possible. Among the successful examples of disease control through genetic resistance is the control of frogeye leaf spot, caused by Cercospora sojina and Stem canker, caused by Diaporthe aspalathi, detected in 1888/89,” said Claudia Godoy, a Researcher from Embrapa Soybean.
The main diseases in different regions of Brazil and their related solutions are as follows:
2.1 All Regions: Asian Soybean Rust and Solutions
Asian soybean rust, caused by Phakopsora pachyrhizi and identified in May 2001 in Parana State, recently had a significant impact on soybean management practices.
After the detection of P. pachyrhizi, the fungus spread quickly to important soybean production regions in Brazil. The conditions in much of Brazil are conducive for year-round survival of the pathogen, not only in other hosts but also in soybeans grown during wintertime in the central Cerrado area. Disease outbreaks were observed in several regions, even in the first growing season, after the initial discovery of the pathogen in Brazil.
In 2016, 12 states in Brazil adopted the“soybean-free host period,” a term of 60 to 90 days between July and September during which farmers are restricted from planting soybeans, except under strictly controlled conditions. This measure was adopted to break the continuous growth cycle of the fungus and delay the beginning of the epidemic in the regular season.
Soybean fungicide recommendations began to be issued in Brazil in 1996/97 to control powdery mildew (Microsphaera diffusa) and, some years later, to control late-season diseases, such as Cercospora kikuchii and Septoria glycines, mainly with sulfur and methyl benzimidazole carbamate (MBC) fungicides. With the introduction of P. pachyrhizi, the use of fungicides intensified to an average of three applications per growing season. For the first few years, the recommended groups of fungicides were demethylation inhibitors (DMIs) working alone or in a premix with quinone outside inhibitors (QoIs). From 2013, succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor (SDHI) fungicides were also accepted for rust control. Growers in Brazil are advised to plant early maturing group cultivars at the beginning of the season and limit the planting window to evade the pathogen.
With widespread use of these fungicides, however, fungi reportedly became less sensitive to them. Resistance and reduced sensitivity to fungicides have been reported for P. pachyrhizi (using DMIs and QoIs), Corynespora cassiicola (QoIs and MBCs), and C. kikuchii (QoIs and MBCs), compromising the chemical control of these pathogens.
2.2 All Regions: Nematodes and Solutions
According to the Brazilian Society of Nematology, nematodes cause losses of R$35 billion for the Brazilian farm industry each year, and the losses in soybean production alone are estimated to reach R$16.2 billion.
The most harmful nematodes for soybean production in Brazil are the root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne javanica and M. incognita.), cyst nematode (Heterodera glycines), lesion nematode (Pratylenchus brachyurus), and reniform nematode (Rotylenchulus reniformis).
The strategies adopted to control root-knot nematodes are crop rotation with a non-host species and the use of resistant soybean cultivars. Cyst nematodes were detected for the first time in 1991/92 and are present today in approximately three million hectares of crops. Losses attributable to cyst nematodes have declined due to the utilization of crop rotation with a non-host species, mainly corn and genetically resistant soybean cultivars. The lesion nematode has increased in importance, especially in sandy soils (comprising less than 15% clay). Control strategies for these nematodes include planting species of crotalaria or pearl millet during the interval between seasons to prevent the spread of the nematode and utilizing disking to expose the nematode to sunlight and desiccation. The importance of reniform nematode grew in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, especially when soybean crops followed cotton on the rotation schedule. Control of this nematode includes crop rotation and the use of cultivars with resistance to the cyst nematode.
2.3 Central and Southern Regions: Sclerotinia Stem Rot and Solutions
Sclerotinia stem rot (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum) can be found in central and southern Brazil and represents an important problem in mountainous regions (700 meters or more above sea level), with moderate temperatures and frequent rains during the flowering stage. Sclerotinia stem rot management practices include the use of seeds free of sclerotia and treated with an MBC fungicide if a seed-born infection is suspected, crop rotation with a non-host species, and the application of foliar fungicides.
In the southern regions, diseases such as Phytophthora root rot (Phytophthora sojae) and brown stem rot (Cadophora gregata) are significant and are controlled mainly by the use of genetically resistant cultivars. Charcoal rot (Macrophomina phaseolina) is a serious problem in southwestern, southern, and northern Brazil, where environmental stresses frequently occur during the growing season.
2.4 Northern Regions: Rhizoctonia Foliar Blight and Solutions
Rhizoctonia foliar blight (Rhizoctonia solani AG1) is a significant disease in the northern regions of Brazil, where warm, wet weather conditions prevail. QoI fungicides are applied during the early flowering stage to control the disease.
In addition, Bruno Valentim Gomes, an Agronomist Analyst at CONAB who is knowledgeable about the soybean market of Brazil, provided some details on the major soybean diseases appearing in each region of Brazil, as well as the products and solutions used to control these diseases. These details are summarized in Table 3.
(Click to enlarge)
3. Soybean Rust and Major Solutions
Asian soybean rust was detected during the 2001 crop season in Brazil. The disease produces multiple generations within the same cropping season, making it difficult to control.
Climate is considered a key factor in the Asian soybean rust epidemiology. Environmental variables affect different processes in the disease cycle and influence the rate of progress and severity of outbreaks. In the field, rain is the key factor influencing the disease’s severity on a regional scale, allowing it to appear later. The disease spreads more slowly under prolonged periods of dry weather.
In addition, Brazil has a second soybean planting period without crop rotation, and many farmers only use a single action mode pesticide, which contributes to the development of resistance. Some rust-resistant fungicides have gradually lost their effect in the country, further contributing to the occurrence of soybean rust.
The disease is particularly destructive as it can develop very quickly; be carried by wind over large distances; and cause rapid, irreparable loss of leaves.
The anti-rust consortium, a disease monitoring platform in Brazil, identified 460 Asian soybean rust spots in the harvest of 2015/16. According to a survey conducted by the Brazilian Agribusiness Association, if there is no proper management, by 2025, Asian soybean rust will have caused losses of 30% of the country's soybean production.
Accordingly, multinationals have worked out various solutions for the Brazilian market to combat soybean rust.
Bayer: Chemical Control with Best Agricultural Practices
Strategy Marketing Manager of Soybean Fungicides at Bayer
“Since Asian soybean rust appeared in 2001, Bayer, the agriculture market, and farmers have been tackling this soybean disease, and the main tool during this period has been chemical control," said Everson Zin, Strategy Marketing Manager of Soy Fungicides at Bayer.
"We are continually looking for the best solutions to control soybean rust. For the last six harvests, the market has been revolutionized by Bayer’s Fox fungicide, which remains active even when some individuals are resistant. Another noteworthy point is identifying the correct moment to apply a fungicide. At Bayer, we have been developing tools, such as our 'De Primeira, SemDúvida' (First of All, No Doubt) program (www.deprimeirasemduvida.com.br
), which are designed to advise farmers on the best time to apply our products to their crops. In Brazil, we are monitoring 10 areas in 8 states in real time, helping farmers determine the optimum time to apply fungicides in their region and giving them information related to the local harvest. We are, therefore, working in two areas that benefit farmers: high-performance products and a focus on their correct application,” Zin added.
“In addition to the products we already have on the market, it is necessary to combine them with the best agricultural practices, such as fallowing, using appropriate varieties, planting at the right time, using certified seeds, and applying the fungicide at the right moment in the proper way, in the right dosage, as recommended by the manufacturer---applying it preventively and not just when the disease is established,”Zin said.
ADAMA: Unique Fungicide Strategy alongside Digital Innovation
Fungicides Global Development Manager at Adama
“In 2007, we at Adama clearly saw that farmers were seeking new ways to help them battle soybean rust. We reached out to growers in an effort to understand what needed to be done to offer them a solution to this disease.”
"This resulted in the development of HOROS, a unique mixture of two highly effective molecules, tebuconazole and picoxystrobin, which provides double the efficacy for farmers. True to Adama's mission to create simplicity in agriculture and to continually enhance our offering by bringing increased value-added products and services to growers, we are also providing farmers with digital services to complement this innovative fungicide. We have made available climate stations, managed through the ADAMA CLIMA app, which alerts farmers to changes in weather conditions that would typically encourage an outbreak of the disease. Additionally, we have created an app called ADAMA ALVO, which is a database of information on pests that attack four main crops, corn, cotton, soybeans, and wheat, providing the farmers with data on the pests' lifecycles, the potential damage they create, and solutions for dealing with them, enabling the farmer to make the best decision to prevent or resolve the problem,” said Pedro Singer, Fungicides Global Development Manager at Adama.
“At the same time, we keep looking ahead. Since soybean rust is typically able to develop resistance to a fungicide within a few years, we are fully aware of the need to create a viable, long-term strategy for soybean fungicides. Therefore, concurrent with the release of HOROS, we began work on the next generation of the product, which will be launched within a few years, prior to the emergence of any significant levels of resistance. As a company that puts the farmer at the center of everything we do, we intend to continue working closely with the growers to ensure that we always have a full understanding of their needs and are able to offer them solutions that bring simplicity to their lives and help them grow,” Singer stressed.
BASF: Preventive Management and Complete Product Portfolio
Soybean Marketing Manager at BASF
“The most effective and popular method to control Asian Rust is chemical management. The time at which the fungicide is sprayed is critical. Preventive management is more effective as it controls the fungi before they penetrate the plants' tissues.
"Early chemical management inhibits spore germination and provides greater residual control, so the crop is protected for a longer period of time. Additional measures are also taken when controlling the disease. The quarantine period after disinfection, guaranteed by law, is essential for reducing the initial pressure from the fungi. At that time, the farmer must eliminate volunteer plants so they do not become hosts for the disease,” stated Elias Guidini, Soybean Marketing Manager at BASF.
BASF has the most complete portfolio of solutions for fighting Asian soybean rust and other soybean diseases, offering three fungicides: Opera, Orkestra, and the recently launched Ativum.
“In July, BASF launched a fungicide in Brazil to complement its portfolio for the soybean crop. The Ativum EC is an innovative solution for controlling Asian soybean rust. The product is versatile and effective at different stages of development of the soybean crop and features a triple mode action that provides excellent control over Asian rust and other key diseases, in addition to assisting with fungal resistance management,” continued Guidini. “Another effective product to control the disease is Orkestra SC, which delivers a strong performance from the first application.”
FMC: Mixed Products and Systemic Management Methods
Fungicide Manager at FMC Agricultural Solutions Brazil
“For the control of soybean rust, we offer farmers two different products: Locker and Battle. These products are a mixture of different active ingredients that control not only soybean rustbut also other diseases that have become economically significant, such as anthracnosis, powdery mildew, and leaf spots,” stated Jonas Cuzzi, Fungicide Manager of FMC Agricultural Solutions Brazil.
“It is worth mentioning that the successive use of the same action mechanisms increases the pressure of selection on fungicides. Therefore, systemic handling measures must be adopted, such as the rotation of action mechanisms and active ingredients, including fungicides with protective action; adoption of intensive fallowing methods; adoption of cultivars with shorter cycles to avoid the times of the year that see greater pressure from the disease; adoption of preventive chemical treatment; and adoption of regional and coordinated treatment programs to reduce the possibility of propagation of the source of the inoculums,” added Cuzzi.
Senior Manager of International Marketing at Rotam
Rotam: Contact Products
“To address soybean rust, we launched last year GALILEO based on tetraconazole, one of the triazoles with the lowest exposure to resistance. Besides this, we are developing and recommending the use of a cont GALILEO act product such as GLIDER® (chlorothalonil) or MANFIL (mancozeb),” said Bertrand Desbrosses, Senior Manager of International Marketing at Rotam.
“However, soybean rust is a growing problem with more difficulties to control due to resistance, early planting, and a shorter production cycle. The main method to address soybean rust resistance is to use a contact product at every application of a fungicide as well as an alternating product, preferably one with the best efficacy to limit its exposure and a reduction in efficacy over time,” added Desbrosses.
4. Impact of Global Soybean Trade Pattern on Soybean Plantation in Brazil
Soybeans produced in Brazil are mainly destined for export. In 2006, exports accounted for 43.8% of the total output, while in 2015, they rose to 56.1%, surpassing the United States to become the largest soybean exporting country in the world. From a global market perspective, the compound annual growth of exports from Brazil has exceeded the growth rate of the total global export volume. According to a recent report from Brazil’s cereals export association, Anec, Brazilian soybean exports from January to June 2016 totaled 39.7 million tons, up 17% year-on-year. Anec has forecast the country's soybean exports in 2016 will reach 57 million tons. If this occurs, it will set a historic record.
China has long been the primary destination for Brazil’s exported soybeans, accounting for 76% of the total exported volume. In April this year, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture issued a resolution on soybean production, called "Guidance for Soybean Production and Development," which set a target of planting soybeans on 9.3 million hectares by 2020, 2.7 million hectares more than is currently used. This resolution has drawn concern from the United States and Brazil, who worry about China reducing imports of soybeans as a result of its plan to expand its soybean planting area. To clarify their position, Pan Wenbo, the head of the Planting Administration Department of the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, stated that the extended planting area in China aims to balance competition between domestic soybeans and imported soybeans to create optimal conditions in the domestic market and allow the country to be self-sustainable. Imported soybeans are mainly used to produce edible vegetable oil and feed proteins, serving a gap in the market, while domestic soybeans are primarily used for making traditional bean products and condiments.
At present, China’s imports of soybeans are still growing. According to a Chinese Customs report, soybean imports in May 2016 reached 7.7 million tons, up 25.1% year-on-year. Imports from Brazil accounted for 91.6% of the total soybean imports, marking an increase of 29.3% over the same period last year. China’s imports of soybeans in the first five months of 2016 totaled 31 million tons, up 14.5% year-on-year, of which 14 million tons were imported from Brazil, a rise of 48.8% from the previous year.
According to an estimate by the United States Department of Agriculture, China’s soybean imports for 2016/17 will increase by 4 million tons, so Brazil’s soybean exports will see increased demand from China, which could spur increased soybean production in Brazil.