By: Bill Simmons
Recently, Agrible's Paul Miller, Bill Simmons, and Steve Doench visited Brazil to experience Brazilian agriculture firsthand, and to share about how Morning Farm Report is helping to increase productivity and efficiency for Brazilian growers. Bill shares his story of the trip - The Rooster Heads to Brazil:
Wow...headed to Brazil to look at some agricultural practices. It dawned on me that I had not left North America since 1999 when I made a trip to Germany and Spain as part of an academic-industry coalition. Many thanks to my Agrible "handlers" who guided me through paperwork, shots, and best of all, procured an aisle seat for the flight. Against all odds, I watched 2 Humphrey Bogart movies, and slept about 4 to 5 hours and woke up feeling fresh as a daisy. When you are accompanied by a seasoned international traveler/handler named Paul Miller, there are no worries.
We are here! A short flight to Porto Alegre where Paul and I met up with Steve Doench, thereby elevating our collective Portuguese language skills by several orders of magnitude. I quickly adapted to the language, sorting out the appropriate restroom by breaking the code of words such as "masculino."
Steve took Paul and I to a local city park where we heard a disco cover band that came out with a pretty good "Stayin' Alive" cover. I came to life remembering how many weddings I had created intrigue by breaking down some salty dance moves. I got my arms in the air and began to work it. I got too much attention too quickly, however, so I dialed it down a notch.
Walking through the park watching Paul devour an ear of sweet corn (defined here as #2 field corn boiled a long time) was also a special memory. We got our first traditional Brazilian meal in a small restaurant near our hotel. It was a dream for me - lots of meal selections, rice and beans...you name it. As an added bonus, I got to watch Steve ply his Portuguese to explain to the dumbfounded waiters that one of our group was a vegan. I am still not convinced they got it!
On Monday morning, we headed out to Passo Fundo, where we spoke with growers and co-op folks and compared notes on how the Agrible platforms worked in Southern Brazil. It was a fantastic group, and everyone there was full of joy and agronomic interests. The agriculture in that part of the country is fascinating - rolling red hills with highly weathered soils. We barely saw any "bare soil," as there is extensive use of multiple cropping and cover crops - producers in Southern Brazil are protecting their vulnerable soil resource. It was somewhat surprising to me that they plant small grains into a killed oat cover crop and occasionally break the grass on grass cycle with soybean, black bean, and sometimes canola.
There were miles and miles of rolling cropped hills as we drove through the countryside. Unlike the Midwest, where small communities pop up in the middle of nowhere, the rural areas seemed to roll on forever with no sign of human life.
We looked at a lot of fields and saw endless hectares of "desiccated" oat cover crops. Producers often harvest just enough of the crop to provide seed for the next cover crop, and then "roll" the field, giving new meaning to the food term "rolled oats."
The highly weathered red soils and small grains brought back fond memories of the North Carolina Piedmont. Lots of challenges with these soils including pH management and restrictive subsoils with some aluminum toxicity, both of which may restrict root growth.
Rural restaurants provided incredibly varied offerings too good to pass up. Steve, Paul, and I locked in on our meals knowing that we would have time to talk later as we traveled to our next site.
Small grain producers face major challenges with fungal diseases. The number of fungicide applications typically exceeds US averages. The commercial value of barley is greatly influenced by the presence of disease on the grain.
Stellar international agronomist? Potential action movie star? Security attache for traveling dignitaries? Interpreter and travel facilitator? Business acquisition expert? Maybe all of the above...our own Steve Doench looking serene in rural Brazil.
Weed control looked great in most of the locations we visited. Nonetheless, I was able to find some marestail and a few winter annuals.
What a great trip and what a great future opportunity for Agrible to help Brazilian growers make timely agronomic decisions. We were well recieved at so many locations, and met lots of wonderful people. With a great experience in the books, unbridled enthusiasm for Brazil and Brazilian agriculture, a passport and a 10-year visa, I am more than ready to return.
Morning Farm Report is now available to Brazilian growers, with translations in Portuguese (below):