June 2, 2008

Brazil reduces soy rust losses by 25 percent this year


Brazil's losses this year due to soy rust are much less than in previous years, thanks to legislative measures and good weather conditions, according to a USDA report posted Friday (May 30, 2008).


Soy rust, which was responsible for more than US$10 billion in damage over past crop years, has shown continual signs of reduction in Brazil, and this year's production losses are estimated at 25 percent less than last year's.


State laws prohibiting farmers from planting soy for a 90-day fallow period have kept soy rust from spreading in the off-season and have helped tremendously with the control of rust. The laws also require spraying soy plants that grow wild in the off-season, in addition to the prohibition of second-crop soy.


The La Nina weather phenomenon has also helped moderate the rust situation. Due to less overall rainfall, which also arrived later than normal, the disease has not been able to spread as easily. In Bahia, which was the state with the most cases in 2006/07, has had no cases registered this year. Soy fields in Mato Grosso do Sul state suffered the most with Rust this year, with 550 registered cases. Parana registered more cases than Mato Grosso do Sul, but suffered fewer losses due to better management.


According to Brazil's leading rust expert, Jose Tadashi Torinori, rust prevention this year has been more efficient, due to the fact that growers are avoiding losses at all costs due to the high value of their soy. He believes that the increased use of generic fungicides has lowered spraying costs for farmers by 10-15 percent.


However, fungus-based diseases have been on the rise, including Rhizoctonia solani (mela da soja) in Mato Grosso, and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (white mold or mofo branco). These fungi are costing producers in affected regions about 2-3 60 kilo bags of soy in fungicide (or up to 5percent of total production value).


Next season would likely bring on even more reduction in soy rust cases as the Mato Grosso Foundation Agricultural research centre rolls out a new rust-resistant soy variety for 2008/09). Named "Inox", it has been under development since 2002, and is adapted for use in the Center-west states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Goias; but can also be used in Tocantins (North), Minas Gerais (Southeast), Maranhao, and Bahia (Northeast). The research will continue for a variety adapted to the growth conditions of the South, but it is unclear if it will be ready by planting time next year.


Although there is no price yet set for the new seed, the Mato Grosso Foundation states that its use will lower the cost of production, because it will require one spray application, instead of the traditional three or more for current varieties. This variety has become particularly interesting for farmers as the leading chemical used to combat rust lost its effectiveness this year.


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