Blogs from Brazil – Part 2 by April Hemmes

Guest blog by
April Hemmes, Hampton, Iowa

Franklin County farmer April Hemmes is traveling through Brazil with a group of Iowans.  You can get a sneak peek at Brazilian culture and agriculture here.  Read below for a daily account of her journey.

Saturday, Feb. 18

Brasilia, the Capital of Brazil

Today we toured Brasília, the capital of Brazil. After taking a bus tour of the city, group members chose to shop or attend carnival (carnaval) celebrations. Carnival is similar to New Orleans’ Mardis Gras with parades, costumes, dancing and lots of food.  Different regions of Brazil hold carnival annually in February or March, depending on the date of Easter.  It ends as Lent begins since historically Lent is a period during which there are no parties and people refrain from eating rich foods in honor of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness.

Sunday, Feb. 19

Today we took a two-hour flight from Brasília, followed by a three-hour bus ride to Primavera do Leste.  Primavera do Leste is located in Mato Grasso, the agricultural region of Brazil where they raise a lot of Zebu, which is the Indian cattle breed that resembles Brahma.

Rain storm on Hell's Kitchen

Riccardo, our guide, farms with his brother.  The soybeans they planted in October and November is now ready to harvest.  Yields will average 53 bushel/acre this year, which is a little less than normal. Sometimes they harvest beans at 25% moisture, so they have to dry them. They do not double crop beans because of rust.  Corn planting will follow soybeans harvest, but they must plant corn before the middle of February to get a good crop.

One interesting thing about how they do business here is that they buy things in “bags of soybeans.”  For example, if I were to buy an acre of land, it would be 400 bags. A bag of soybeans here is 2.2 bushels, so it comes to roughly $3,200/acre.  The same goes for a combine or any equipment purchase, so the price of everything fluctuates with the price of beans!

Monday, Feb. 20

The soybeans are looking good

Today we visited a huge farm.  And I do mean HUGE!  Totaling 500,000 acres and 50,000 livestock, it’s one of the world’s largest farms. It has storage capacity for 5.5 million. It also has the world’s largest John Deere fleet.

Cotton and soybeans are their principal crops with corn, rice and beans as secondary crops.  They also have a fish farm, so we got to watch their annual fish harvest.  We also got to watch combines harvest soybeans and learned the big drought southern Brazil is lowering yields to 49-51 bushels/acre. Soybeans are harvested as wet as 25%, so they dry them with Eucalyptus wood burners. It’s a sustainable energy source as they plant 20 acres of Eucalyptus; it takes eight years for a tree to reach maturity.

What an interesting day! We could look one way and see soybeans being harvested, turn another way and see cotton growing, and then look another direction and see corn being planted in the same field.