October 27, 2004



Brazil Plans to Develop Soy Seeds Resistant to Asian Rust


Brazil, the world's second-largest soybean producer, plans to develop by 2007 seeds resistant to Asian rust, a blight that damaged 9 percent of this year's crop, the government's agricultural research agency said.


Embrapa, as the agency is known, will invest 12 million reais ($4.2 million) to produce soy seeds that require less fungicide to combat the disease, thereby helping producers to reduce production costs, the agency's director, Jose Geraldo Eugenio de Franca, said.


The research began in 2001 at Embrapa's branch in Londrina, Parana state, and was accelerated this year after Brazilian farmers lost $2 billion to the rust, he said.


"We're getting ready to become as competitive as we were three years ago, when there was no plague,'' Franca stated. "The goal is to develop seeds that won't need fungicide at all.''


Brazil lost 4.5 million tons of soybeans this year and may lose another 4.8 million tons next year due to the Asian rust, the Agriculture Ministry said last month. The plague contributed to Brazil's 49.8 million-ton soybean harvest this year falling short of the 58 million-ton forecast. Embrapa expects the resistant soy seeds to account for 40 percent of the seeds planted as soon as they are offered to farmers, Franca said.


"This is very good news for farmers,'' said Marcel Caixeta, a vice president of the National Agriculture Confederation. "If producers can't reduce production costs, Brazil is threatened to be out of the international market.''


Expansive View


The confederation estimates that combating Asian rust accounts for 15 percent of production costs of the soybean harvest, said Alecio Marostica, a farmer who plants 600 hectares of soybean in the outskirts of Brasilia.


"Such a variety would alleviate the situation for farmers quite a lot,'' said Marostica. "It would be a godsend.''


Embrapa may also spend $1 million, beginning next year, to build a laboratory in China and another in India as it aims to exchange genetic material with Asian countries and look for other solutions to avert plagues, Franca said.


With the partnership, Embrapa aims to have access to around 30,000 types of soy that China owns, while Brazil owns around 6,000 types, he added.

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