We were back to exploring agriculture today in Brazil after the water park yesterday. We learned a lot about sugarcane production today. We started with a field where they had recently planted sugarcane. They plant small sections of sugarcane in the soil and plants sprout from the nodes. We covered a wide array of topics relating to sugarcane including nutrient requirements, pests, growing conditions, and more. It takes about 20 months from planting before sugarcane is ready to harvest. Sugarcane needs to be replanted every 5-8 years depending on production history and practices. The sugarcane fields we visited are harvested for ethanol production. Ethanol is used heavily to fuel vehicles in Brazil.
Next we went to an area where they were soil sampling which led to a discussion on precision agriculture practices. The farmer we were visiting with was very progressive and utilizes RTK guidance for planting and drone scouting. He is also utilizing grid soil sampling. They are currently utilizing 3 hectare (7.5 acre) grids. They hope to move to 1 hectare (2.5 acre) grids. We then traveled to a couple locations where we hoped to see harvest and planting take place, but unfortunately this was not possible due to wet condition from rain the night before.
However, the rain did not stop the farmer from sharing the process with us. He got on the phone with another farmer in the state of Minas Gerais and they were planting and harvesting today. We jumped on the road and crossed the river to the state of Minas Gerais. We had to take many backroads to reach the fields mentioned earlier and now. It was more time on the road, but well worth the time to witness planting and harvesting of sugarcane. The machines are remarkable and nothing like we are used too. We then made our way back to main roads. On the way back we came across many rough roads and had to take parts of the fields over the roads several times as the van would high center otherwise.
After lunch we returned to the state of Goias to visit a Pioneer seed corn production facility near Intumbiara. Unfortunately, our extra time in the sugarcane fields cut into our time at Pioneer. We were unable to do a plant tour, because of our arrival time. However, we had a great discussion on seed corn production in Brazil with several Pioneer employees. This specific plant works with around 45 different hybrids over 18,000 hectares (45,000 acres). We were able to compare and contrast seed production in the U.S. and Brazil. There were many similarities, but a good share of differences as well. One of the big challenges in Brazil is year round seed production with a double cropping system. Another big point of discussion was the heat units per day in Brazil. In this region they can count on 25 heat units per day and some areas of Brazil will see 30-35 heat units per day.
We ended the evening with a great dinner outside in a courtyard followed by a stop at an ice cream shop. Tomorrow we explore another farm and soybean processing plant.