Field planted with AN Cambará in Paracatu, Minas Gerais, Brazil. (Photo: Mairson R. Santana)
Field planted with AN Cambará in Paracatu, Minas Gerais, Brazil. The successive articles Catching the rains, Pressure in the South, and Shift to rice? focus on rice production in Latin America. The upland system in Brazil is responsible for two-thirds of the planted rice area and one-third of total actual rice production. This system has become vital in order to expand soybeans, maize, and cotton. Rice is planted during the first 2 years before the establishment of soybeans because it can withstand acidity and aluminum in the soil. A total of 1.3 million hectares of rice and 4.9 million hectares of soybean span over Brazil’s states, namely, Mato Grosso, Rondônia, Pará, Maranhão, Piauí, Goiás, and Mato Grosso do Sul. Upland rice production strongly depends on the dynamics of the soybean market—the main crop in the region. A decrease or increase in rice area depends on the price of soybeans every year. Because of a fair amount of area allotted to soybeans, farmers can rotate soybean with rice. Moreover, more than 20 million hectares of degraded pasture can also be used to produce rice. Needless to say, the potential to cultivate and increase rice production is very high as long as proper funding and good marketing strategies are in place. The regular rains from October to April allow farmers to plant a second crop on top of harvested soybean fields. Some farmers plant rice because it costs less to produce than producing soybean and maize. Moreover, growing rice can reduce nematodes in soybean areas, maximize areas for crop rotation, renew pastures, increase profitability, as well as meet consumer demand.
The challenge now is to increase production at a time when funding and liquidity are tight. Planting has reflected this low liquidity at the time of sale because of the use of “pirated” seeds. These seeds rob research and breeding of investments. This situation can, however, be improved through better price transparency, the availability of forward and futures contracts, as well as through efforts to grow export markets that leverage rice availability from the Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina regions.
Upland rice has returned to the limelight with the market release of variety AN Cambará, which meets the needs of Brazilian consumers. AN Cambará has good yield, is tolerant of drought and different soil types, has good fertility and consistent pH levels, and has excellent grain and cooking quality appropriate for the Brazilian market. Farmers also like the results of the yield capacity of AN Cambará and the more recent availability of hybrid AN 9001, which can yield 8–9 tons per hectare of rice in areas where soybeans can produce only 3.5 tons per hectare. These developments add new promise and potential to the ability of Brazil’s rice production to meet rising domestic demand.
Mr. Santana is an agricultural engineer who currently works as the director of the commercial department of Agro Norte, the largest private seed company for upland rice in Brazil.