BRAZIL The soybean productivity levels of this South American country are rising sharply, a trend that could drastically increase production if planting continues to expand, a Brazilian researcher said recently.

"There is a visible upward tendency in the level of Brazilian soybean productivity,' said Paul Robert Galerani, assistant technical director of the Brazilian agricultural research firm's (Embrapa) National Soybean Research Centre. Yields were heading toward 3,500 kg-per-hectare (ha), with the centre-west states of Mato Grosso and Goias showing the strongest productivity increase, Galerani told an international soybean conference held in Brazil recently.

But in the key southern state of Parana, yields were still hovering around the 2,700-kg mark. "We could, with local technology, go from 2,700-kg-per-ha to between 3,000 and 3,500 kg-per-ha,' he said. "With biotechnology, precision agriculture and other available techniques, maybe we could go even higher,' he added.

The vast scrubland plains of Brazil's centre-west, known locally as the "cerrado', also offered the opportunity to double the nation's total grain production, Galerani said. Currently, a total of 136 million ha of the cerrado is being used for a variety of purposes such as growing soybean crops and as cattle pasture, but the area had a potential 207 million ha of available land. If fully used, it could boost Brazil's total grain production to 192 million tonnes from 80 million tonnes.

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