As a member of the Nebraska Soybean Board of Directors, Tony Johanson of Oakland was recently given an up-close look at soybean production in South America. He discovered that 1,000-acre soybean fields, a continual growing season and cheap labor isn’t all its made out to be.
Joining other members of the board of directors and several Nebraska farmers, Johanson spent time with University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor George Graef looking at research projects partially funded by the Soybean Board in Chile and Brazil. His projects include studying drip irrigation and cross-pollinations of soybeans. A year-long growing climate allows him to grow two crops per year. “Chile is very dry; it mimics Nebraska’s conditions,” Johanson said. “It is a great location to study drip irrigation.”
Brazil, on the other hand, is very humid and hot and there is a lot of disease. This allows for research in how soybeans can handle different stresses.
Findings from Graef’s research projects will directly benefit Nebraska farmers.
“We have a perception that you can go down to Brazil and you should be able to farm thousands and thousands of acres,” Johanson said. “The input costs for farming and infrastructure down there are so poor that it is not economically feasible down there.”
Johanson said that even though there is ground down there that hasn’t even been touched and there is an opportunity to grow two crops a year, the ground is so acidic they are having to apply 2 tons of lime per crop twice a year.
“We are putting two tons of lime on every five years,” Johanson said.
He said they are also spraying a fungicide on every 15 days as opposed to once a year up here.
Visiting a 12,000-acre farm he discovered the farmer had 37 semis. Half of the trucks full of beans went 100 miles to be processed and the other half had a 600-mile journey to reach the ports. The trucks ran on a continual cycle.
“The neatest thing I saw was going through a field and seeing a combine combining beans
being followed by a planter planting corn or sorghum followed by a dry spreader. They are getting two crops a year,” Johanson said.
He was also fascinated to see that because their growing season never ends, you can find corn growing in various stages within a five mile stretch.
“In one field you will see corn being planted with corn that is knee-high in the next; corn that is tasseling in the next field; and corn being picked in another,” Johanson said.
Johanson is a 2000 graduate of Oakland-Craig and currently works as the South Seed director for Central Valley Ag. He resides in Oakland with his wife Melanie and is serving his first year of a three-year elected term on the Nebraska Soybean Board of Directors.
For more information on the Nebraska Soybean Board, visit www.nebraskasoybeans.org.