Wednesday, March 25, 2015

China's Focus Shifting

For years China has focused on maximizing yields at many costs. The linked article below takes a look at the shift that is taking place regarding agriculture production in China. After looking over the linked article utilize the discussion points below to guide conversations in your classrooms and communities.

China Policy Shift

Discussion Points

  1. Describe China's production policy/focus in the past. 
  2. Why is China moving to a more balanced approach of focusing equally on: quantity, quality, efficiency, environmental protection, and sustainable development? 
  3. How do you feel your home country does balancing the above mentioned areas in crop production? Does your respective home country put too high or too low of emphasis on certain areas? Explain all responses. 
  4. Do you foresee this focus shift in China affecting global agriculture markets? Why or why not?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sugarcane and Rain

Our day today was spent traveling north of Goiania to a sugar cane production region. We spent our day at Jalles Machado ethanol and sugar production facility which was built in 1981. They have 62,000 hectors of sugar cane fields which is about 150,000 acres. From this 60% produces ethanol and 40% organic sugar for human consumption. The plant both conventional and organic sugar cane, with the organic being made into sugar for export to mainly the USA and Europe. A sugar cane plant can be productive from 4-8 years but most of the time after 4 years it is rotated with soybeans. Depending on the rainfall (or season) it takes from 12-18 months for the sugar cane to grow to maturity for harvesting. It was a very interesting and educational tour.

As some of my posts have indicated it has been rainy much of the time we have been in Brazil, today was no exception. At Jalles Machado they showed a graph with rainfall averages from the past 30 years, 2014 and 2015 to date. January was exceptionally dry and they were below average for February rainfall. March is slightly above average and there are still a couple weeks to go. The Brazilians are happy to see the rain, from an agricultural perspective I can see why.

We enjoyed Brazilian pizza tonight for supper and it was delicious! At the restaurant we went to they bring pizza after pizza all of different kinds, you take what you want and eat until you are full. It is like a buffet but they serve can't get much better than that!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Learning and Relaxing

March 17

Today we started the day off with a long bus ride to the south for a tour at the Itumbiara Pioneer plant. The production manager shared a presentation with us about Pioneers production and research structure in Brazil. The plant we visited focuses on corn production and produces a number of varieties for export. Yesterday they were bagging small bags for export to Pakistan. During our tour they were very willing to show us every detail of production. One aspect that amazed students was the cold storage. The seven bay cold storage is held at 53 degrees Fahrenheit and when full can hold 1.1 million bags valued at $385 million. Students really enjoyed this tour.

The bus rides give us time to enjoy the different scenery that Brazil has to offer. In Brazil there is a lot of cattle production, mainly grazing in the Goias region. The predominant breed is the Nelore which is a Bos Indicus breed (humped and lighter muscled but heat tolerant and more insect resistant).

We spent time in the afternoon at an organic farm near Goiania. This farm was certified in 2008 and has about 1000 acres, 50% of which is in its natural state for environmental preservation. Some main crops produced are beans (23 varieties), rice, citrus fruits, cassava, tomatoes, and potatoes, in all over 20 different crops are produced. They also rise cattle, swine and poultry organically.

March 18

Today was a relaxing day at the hot spring water park. Unfortunately we didn't have a warm, clear day but the water is so warm it was still enjoyable. They have water slides, a wave pool, and pools for floating or playing volleyball (students had some pretty lively games).

We ended the day at a Brazilian restaurant that offered some American options. Juarez, our host, said this was one of his favorite restaurants. He ordered for us a combination of Brazilian and American foods...rice, beans, steak, fries with cheese to name a few.

Today was another great day.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Great Day of Learning

Our morning was spent at Embrapa rice and beans research facility which is one of 45 locations across Brazil within the Embrapa network.  They started with an informative presentation on the work they do which ranges from grains to livestock.  We visited experiment fields for cotton, peanuts and upland rice.  Different grains have different breeding focuses.  A focus for cotton is creating a glyphosate resistant plant that has drought tolerance and good quality fiber.  In Brazil the focus is in upland rice (not produced in flooded paddocks) that is drought resistant with good yields and grain quality (non-sticky, soft rice).  In Brazil double cropping is common as is using rotational planting programs.  Currently one of the rotations they are using and having great success with is soybeans followed by upland rice and then planting corn and grass together.  After harvesting the corn they grass will thrive and can be grazed for two years.


We ate lunch at UFG agronomy school cafeteria today and followed that with a campus tour.  We visited the coffee roasting facility, main campus to see the monkeys and the TV production studio.

We ended our day at "ibf" which is bioactive fertilizer production.  The big question all day by students was what do they produce?  Simply, an additive of bacteria and fungi.  So what do you do with this additive you might be wondering.  It is added to cattle manure, poultry litter or sugar cane processing by-products along with phosphate rock to breakdown the components of the mixture making it ready for field application.  In Brazil the soil is lacking in phosphorus and calcium, this combination provides the lacking elements.

I think it is fair to say we all learned a lot about crop production in Brazil today.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Relaxing Day with Friends

Today we started our day by touring some of Goiania. We stopped for coconut waters, which most of the students really enjoyed.

The main highlight of today was spending time at Juarez Oliveira's home. He and his family graciously invited our group and a few UFG students to their home for a relaxing afternoon. He prepared bean soup to start the meal out, followed by feijoada and finally dessert. Feijoada is a thick stew like main dish made with black beans, sausage links (sliced), beef roast and pork shoulder meat. It is served with rice and is delightful. For dessert we had watermelon and vanilla ice cream with a banana sauce, also amazing. None of us left hungry!

There was lots of great conversation among students from Brazil and the U.S. along with faculty. The guys enjoyed the pool playing "water football" with a soccer ball.

Today was a relaxing, fun day in Brazil.

Waterfalls and Bazaar

Somehow we got lucky today, we had rain on our roughly 3 hour bus ride to Pirenopolis and again on the way to Goiania, but had beautiful weather while at Pirenopolis.

Pirenopolis is a city with many small shops and restaurants but for us the main attraction was the hiking and waterfalls. We hiked approximately half a mile seeing 7 waterfalls along the way. Much of the terrain is rocky, some is very steep with small plank or tree trunk bridges to cross the springs. Once at the very top there is a large waterfall and swimming area. The water comes from natural springs so it is COLD. The adrenaline rush for many of the students (and faculty) was jumping off one of the two ledges into the pool below. The higher ledge is about 20 meters to the water surface. Many students jumped from both ledges multiple times, enjoying every minute of our time there. If you didn't want to jump you could enjoy the nice weather and cold but clear water. We ate lunch in Pirenopolis and spent a little time looking into the shops.

After checking into our hotel in Goiania we walked down to the Saturday night street bazaar. There was a huge selection of food vendors and shops selling a variety of goods. Students enjoyed large amounts of food and a few made purchases. It was a great way to end the day! global-agriculture-learning-center-logo.jpg

Friday, March 13, 2015

Experiencing Brasilia

This year 13 students agriculture students from Hawkeye Community College have decided to take the great opportunity to study abroad in Brazil over spring break.

Today was a very educational day. We started out visiting the ministry of agriculture where Raul de Oliveira Fontoura (policy advisor) gave a informative presentation on Brazilian agriculture and had an opportunity to ask questions. Brazil is number one in production and export of sugar and coffee, they are second in production and first in exports for soybeans with 52.7% of all soybean production being exported. Brazil does have a major challenge with infrastructure and getting commodities to ports for market. Currently, new ports in the northern region are being constructed along with a railway system to help transport goods for exportation. It was a great start to the day.

We ate lunch at Mangai which is a traditional Brazilian buffet. There is a vast amount of food to choose from including a large dessert selection. It is open air dining and today was a beautiful day for that. Interesting and typical of traditional Brazilian restaurants is the method of pricing buffets. After you fill your plate they weigh it to determine what your meal will cost.

Our next stop was the JK Memorial. Juscelino Kubitschek was the 21st president (1956-1961) of Brazil and the man with a vision of Brasilia as a city. Before JK took office the area where Brasilia sits was a savanna area but now a city designed in the shape of an airplane sits as the capital. It took 41 months for completion in 1960. The memorial was built in his memory in 1980 where his body now resides. He is seen as one of the great presidents of Brazil and the man who built modern Brazil.

Our afternoon ended with a visit to APEX. At APEX they focus on development of export markets for Brazilian commodities as well as work with outside investors. They have nine additional world wide locations, 2 in the US (San Francisco and Miami), that help support the mission of export expansion. Another very informative visit.

Overall, it was a great day learning about Brazil.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bird Flu Brings International Bans

As bird flu is showing up in various states around the United States more and more countries are banning chicken coming from the United States. The linked article below from AgWeb takes a look at Bird Flu in the U.S. and what impact it is having. We encourage you to check out the article and reflect with others on the discussion points provided.

International Bans Against U.S. Poultry

Discussion Points

  • What parts of the United States have seen cases of avian influenza and when have these cases appeared?
  • Which countries have placed a ban on U.S. poultry and how will this affect markets?
  • Should this strain of avian influenza be a concern for citizens? Explain your reasoning.
  • Share your ideas on ways to stop the spread and ultimately end the avian influenza that is hitting the U.S.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Brazil by Morning

This afternoon 13 students and two faculty from Hawkeye Community College boarded a plane in Cedar Rapids in route to Atlanta, before making a connecting flight to Brasilia, Brazil. This group will spend 10 days in the country of Brazil exploring agriculture, making new friends, and being immersed in Brazilian culture. Their adventure will begin in the capital of Brasilia before making their way to the city of Goiania. They will explore the state of Goias throughout this time. We encourage you to check back often to see where their travels take them!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ukraine Corn Production Down

Ukraine has become a major producer of corn and ships out more corn than any other country when you take the United States and Brazil out of the equation. However, this year Ukraine is expecting a major decrease in corn production. The article Ukraine Corn Losses from AgWeb discusses the issues facing corn production in Ukraine and the ramifications that may come. Look over this article then discuss the questions below.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is causing the decreasing corn production in Ukraine?
  2. Why has wheat not been affected at this time the way corn production has in Ukraine?
  3. Have you seen anything like this with interest rates in the past in your home country? When and what were the repercussions?
  4. Could you see a similar situation, like in Ukraine, happening in your home country in the future? If yes, what would lead to this? If no, why do you feel your country is protected from this?