Brazil Study Tour Blog

November 24, 2008

Fruit trees an important food source

Fruit Trees in Brazil

By Gary Wyatt, Jeff Coulter, and Suzanne Driessen

There are many edible fruit trees and shrubs in Brazil, which serve as a valuable food and income resource in small gardens to large plantations. Below is a review of a few of the fruit and food producing plants we saw and ate on our tour of southern Brazil.

Orange: The 9,000 acre orange plantation we visited was selling all of their oranges to a juice processor. This plantation had over 1.5 million trees, and is the second largest orange plantation in the world. The orange tree can begin producing at 3 years of age and continue to produce for up to 20 years. The plantation had 200 full time employees and hires up to 4,000 workers to help hand harvest the oranges during November and December. This plantation uses integrated pest management practices to identify insect and disease thresholds which indicate proper and timely control measures. Three varieties of orange trees are present on this plantation, as suggested by the juice processor. Bees are needed for pollination during August and September, so independent bee keepers bring their bee hives into the plantation during this time. Both businesses benefit from each other. In addition, windbreaks separate fields and provide a natural barrier to reduce the spread of disease and insect infestations. Brazil November 2008 147.JPG


Banana: Bananas are grown in many parts of Brazil. Bananas are a very common food served in many ways throughout the day. They are not just for breakfast. For example, we had fried, caramel bananas for dessert at lunch and dinner. Bananas grow in bunches, with 60 to 80 bananas per bunch. They are picked year round in large plantations. The main insect which affects bananas is the fruit fly.

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Mango: There is a large mango export market in Brazil. They pick the fruit green, export it, and ripen it with ethylene gas at the destination. Mangos are slightly bigger than a softball and are usually yellow inside. Their taste resembles ripe peaches. There are two major types of mango: Tomi (commercially grown) and Coquinho (smaller).
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Jaca: One day, our interpreter stopped the bus at a roadside stand. He brought back a strange looking, large football shaped fruit called Jaca. After cutting it he encouraged us to eat the yellow part around the large seeds. It had a rubbery citrus taste. It is not commercially grown but it is eaten and found in local markets.
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Jaboticaba: This is called the blackberry tree. The large quarter sized berries are attached to the tree limbs and trunk, something that is not common in the U.S. Berries have 1 to 2 seeds and are used for jams, liquors, and fresh fruit. It is not commercially grown.
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Acerola: This is a red berry that grows from a shrub. One berry contains as much vitamin C as 4 oranges. The berries are harvested and made into frozen concentrate. We noticed at the grocery store that a Tic Tac breath mint flavor was made from acerola.

Coconut: Plantations are usually found in the warm tropical region with sandy soils. Green coconuts are harvested for coconut water. It was offered at one of the restaurants as a supplemental drink at lunch. One tree bears up to 100 fruits that are harvested once each year.

Papaya: Papaya fruit was served for breakfast in almost all of our hotels. It was sliced and quartered like melon slices with its seeds on top. It is also served in a fruit syrup mix with other fruits.

Fig: Figs are usually grown in northern Brazil but were served as dessert in many restaurants. Figs are grown on bushy trees that are 30 to 50 feet wide. Figs are usually not eaten raw, and they are served in sweet syrup. Their seeds are smaller than those of strawberries.

Grapes: Grapes are grown to produce wine, in many parts of Brazil.

Although not a fruit, Cassava is a very important food source in Brazil. Cassava is a tuberous root vegetable like plant resembling horse radish with a brown skin and white inside. It is largely grown for flour, but it is also fried like French fries. However, it is cooked before it is fried. There are several tubers per plant. Brazil November 2008 246.JPG

A Flordia nursery has photos and descriptions of the tropical fruit we saw and tasted in Brazil on their website: http://www.tropicalfruitnursery.com/fruitproducts_gl.htm Some of these fruits can be grown in Flordia.


November 23, 2008

Google Earth aerial photos of our route

I took a small, wrist-mounted Garmin Forerunner GPS unit on the trip, and turned it on occasionally as we travelled and bookmarked the locations of some of the sites we visited. I also traced parts of our route near those sites using its bread crumb-like “history? feature. I didn’t trace the entire route due to the unit’s memory and battery limitations. I am still learning how to use the unit. I’ve since found out that it is possible to upload the history to Google Earth and to locate the bookmarked locations.

I’ve uploaded six JPG aerial photo files to the Flickr site. One shows the parts of our overall route that I traced, with squares showing the bookmarked locations. Another shows what I think was the Valtra tractor factory. Two others show the Machesan orange loading area, and the house and gardens where we looked at the coffee tree and other very beautiful trees and plants. I included a view of the EMPBRAPA soybean research facility at Londrina, and finally just for fun I included one showing the Comfort Suites hotel we stayed at in Londrina (the small building in the upper right) next to the big mall we walked around in.


November 21, 2008

Water Conservation

Water in Brazil
By Jeff Coulter, Gary Wyatt, Suzanne Driessen

Brazil contains more than 14% of the world’s freshwater supply. As our tour bus drove over small streams and large rivers, most of the water was reddish-brown; this is the same color of the soil. Soil and stream bank erosion were noticeable in some areas. However, crop farmers are utilizing soil conservation practices such as terraces and no-till to control erosion. Unlike the United States, the Brazilian national government does not provide producers financial incentives for adopting these practices. Many terraces were developed in the 1970’s due to soil erosion problems on the hilly terrain. In addition to protection against soil erosion, no-till has been adopted by most Brazilian producers for conservation of soil moisture under annually warm soil temperatures.

Bottled water is available and used by almost everyone in Brazil for drinking, even though the local water in the southern part of Brazil is considered safe. Public water is chlorinated and is not a preference among the local residents for drinking. Other parts of Brazil may have unhealthy water situations that warrant bottled water.

Environmental law established in 1982 in Brazil mandates that landowners allow 20% of their land to return to native vegetation. Landowners usually select the areas that cannot be tilled or grazed. On the last day we learned that there is a controversy about whether the 20% can include required buffer strips (grass or trees) along rivers and streams. Large rivers must have 100 to 500 meters of buffer and small streams 30 meters of buffer vegetation on both sides of these waterways. This buffer distance may vary by state and some states are offering financial assistance. In addition, it is unlawful for cattle to enter these buffer areas and the associated rivers or streams. Overall, landowners and producers in Brazil are being proactive in adopting conservation practices to preserve the water and soil resources in the region and to develop a sustainable agricultural system which protects profitability and the environment.


Agroforestry and Trees

Agroforestry and Trees in Brazil

By Gary Wyatt, Jeff Coulter and Suzanne Driessen

The semi-tropical and tropical climate in Brazil offers an array of beneficial species of trees and shrubs which can be used for food, fiber, paper, wood products, windbreaks and aesthetic value. The soil in Brazil is red in color, and varies considerably in soil texture. In the state of Sao Paulo, soils were often composed of 60% sand, but in the state of Panara the soils are predominantly clay loam. Soils in Brazil are of volcanic origin and developed under forest. This, along with the warm annual temperatures and high rainfall contribute to the low organic matter levels in these soils. Annual rainfall in the southern region of Brazil is approximately 40 to 50 inches annually. Producers in Brazil can grow crops in both the winter and summer seasons. There is also considerable crop diversity, as it is common to see soybean, banana, rubber, and orange plantations adjacent to each other.

Agroforestry is common in much of southern Brazil. The BMV Agro-Industrial Cooperative (www.agroluta.com.br) we visited uses wood from the eucalyptus tree as a fuel for drying harvested corn to grain moisture levels that are suitable for storage. Specifically they use approximately 1 cubic meter of wood to dry 500 bushels of corn from 20% to 14% moisture. Their cost is $18 per cubic meter. Other sources of fuel are too expensive, and they do not have the option of using propane because they lack the infrastructure for propane transport and storage. The eucalyptus tree is a fast growing tree which was introduced from Australia and can be harvestable in 5 years. In addition to its use as a fuel source, it is also used for fiber, paper, and various other products.

Crown of thorns, a floral house plant in Minnesota, is grown as a vegetative fence and windbreak in Brazil. It is commonly found along property boundaries and grows in a thick, dense, and thorny thicket. However, it can be pruned as a hedge, and it blooms most of the year, thereby adding beauty to the landscape.

We also visited the second largest orange plantation in the world, which was 9,000 acres. In this plantation, windbreaks of trees were used as a physical barrier between orange fields to help reduce or minimize the movement of insect infestations.

Another visit was to a rubber tree plantation with over 200,000 rubber trees. This plantation not only increased diversity to the landscape, but it also increased rural income. The trees can begin production as early as 8 years of age. Tiny diagonal slits are made and the bark is removed each week to produce the white rubber (latex) which is collected in a container attached to the tree.

Overall, the wide range of diversity in tree species and Agroforestry in Brazil contribute to a sustainable multifunctional landscape, where trees have economic, social, aesthetic, and environmental impacts.


November 19, 2008

It's time to say farewell

We are having breakfast at the hotel in Sao Paulo before we head to the airport and our trip home. It has been a wonderful experience for all of us in the group. We have learned so much about Brazilian agriculture but only scratched the surface on all Brazil offers, as we were always within about 300 miles of Sao Paulo. I think everyone in the group has a deeper appreciation for the agriculture industry in Brazil and realize the people here are simply trying to make a living for their family just as is the case in the U.S. "People are people" as stated by Betsy. We will be adding more to this blog when we return so stay tuned.


November 18, 2008

Livestock in Brazil

It seems that some of my colleagues have already written about our adventures to a beef and dairy operation. I found these 2 stops extremely interesting - since they are in my area of study. The dairy could be compared to one that is of 1950 standards in the US. Although, without seeing any others to compare it to - it is hard to say if that is representative. I thought it was quite interesting that they had the same AFC as we aim for. Also, we made an interesting connection. This dairyman is interested in comming to the US in February - just in time for the Carver County Dairy Expo. I am going to try to make contact with him in the future about that.


November 16, 2008

Sampling Sugar Cane

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Sugar cane.jpg



Dairy Farm visit - Bisek, Pepin, Martens, Broadwater

On Sunday, Nov 16 on a very warm afternoon (high 80's and humid), the tour group went to a dairy farm near Londrina. The host was Vilson Mouro of the Monte Alegre Farm. Dairy farming in the area consists for herds from 40 cows to 400 cows. There are 3 organic herds in the area.
Mr. Mouro also is a veterinarian and owns a number of veterinary supply stores in the area. The dairy consists of 80 crossbred cows. The breeds he uses includes Holstein, Gir, Girolonda. The Gir and Girolonda breeds are used for the tropical climate and are better for long distance grazing. The Holstein is included for milk production. Holsteins are milked for 7-8 months and the other breeds for 5 months. The farm is located in an area that has long, steep slopes and terraces. The pasture grass is a Brazilian specie that works very well for livestock production. He harvests corn silage twice per year on 40 hectares. The harvest is in January and June. The silage is stored in a concrete bunker (4.5 meters wide x 50 meters long x 3 meters high). Corn silage yield is 45metric tons per hectare. The harvester is a Pecus 9004 model single row, harvesting 2 hectares per day. However, he has made the decision this takes too loing and next year will be hiring a custom operator. When we looked at the silage in storage we found it very well packed and fermented. Of interest was the fact they move the silage by hand from the bunker to the barn to feed the herd during milking using 80 kilogram tubs.
Feeding -- Along with the silage and pasture, they use a custom mix delivered to the farm consisting of ground corn, ground wheat and macro and micro elements (VTM). Soybean meal is top dressed a 1/2 kilogram/cow/day. The mix is fed at 3 kilogram/head/day. The silage is fed at 17 kilograms/head/day in tiled mangers. One observation was how clean the mangers were with no evidence of any residue or buildup. The feed is placed in the manger just before the cows enter the barn for milking.
Milking -- The milking facility is a barn that resembles a double 40 flat barn parlor with pipe line using 4 units. The barn had open sides all around. It takes rougly 1 hr 40 minutes to milk with 3-4 people. They milk at 4am and 2 pm which was indicated as being very typical for dairy producers in the area. The calves were in a separate pen in the same barn. There was no bedding on the cement floor. Production was 1500 litres/day (about 20 liters/cow) from the herd plus what was fed to the calves. The regulations for keeping the milking facility clean is becoming more strict. Therefore, he plans to build a double 8 milking parlor next year. The present barn will be used as a feeding area. He plans to pay for the parlor by increasing production to 2000 litres/day without adding cows and by reducting labor by 2 FTEs. In watching the milking process, the milkers tie the the back legs with nylon rope. Prep for milking consists of wiping the teats with a dry paper towel massaging the teat for milk letdown. Some crossbred cows do not allow milk letdown easily so a calf is lead in to the side of the cow to allow it to suck the teats for a few seconds to stimulate letdown. The state milk inspector visits the farm once per month.
Milk Pick Up -- every other day. The bulk tank was deLaval. Milk goes to a milk plant cooperative where it is processed for fluid milk. (comment: in visiting a nearby supermarket we found most fluid milk was packaged as UHT). The price he receives for his milk is $0.27/litre ($12.00 cwt in U.S).
Breeding -- 80% of the herd is AI bred. Heifers calve a 24 months. All animals calve near the barn in a calving paddock. He does his own breeding.
Health care -- Because he is a veterinarian he provides 99% of the health care for the herd. As best we understand, he treats mastitis very little. Every load of milk is sampled and tested for SCC. He does get a premium for quality milk. We were unable to determine his exact SCC count. He said, "less is best and it is higher in the summer rainy season."
We asked him how he learns about new techniques, practices and technologies. He indicated he attends many meetings sponsored by agri-business. He gets together with other dairy producers and travel within Brazil to gain knowledge. He also acknowledged he gets a lot of information from the University.
The Family -- He lives in town and the home on the farm is a weekend home. We had the opportunity to meet his mother and father, twin sisters and two sons. They provided some wonderful refreshments for us on this hot afternoon. We took a group photo which we felt they greatly appreciated. We will send them a copy. They were very gracious hosts. Our tour guide interpreted all conversations as they were not versed in English and we in Portugese.
Vilson invited us to come back to attend the largest farm show in South America, held in Londrina April 1-14, 2009. Equipment manufacturers from all around exhibits, there will be 164 breeds of cattle. They expect 1 million people to attend. Vilson is planning to come to the U.S., possibly MN, in Feb or March, 2009.


They grow everything under the sun!

What surprised me most about Brazil is how many different fruit and vegetables they grow here. Anderson, our tour conductor, said they import very little food because they can grow almost anything! Here are just a few Brazilian grown food we have seen and tasty.
• Pineapple-ever so sweet and tasty
• cassava (root starch vegetable like our potatoes; uses include fried like our French fries, ground into flour for bread),
• blueberries
• mango
• pickled cabbage, red and yellow peppers and onions
• pickled onion relish
• fish from the Amazon
• tilapia farm raised in ponds
• roasted salted peanuts
• pinto beans and rice
Today, we had lunch at a restaurant on a ranch. They raise and grow all the food for the seven restaurants owned by the rancher. That's about as close to 'locally grown' as you can get.


Ethanol 2008 - Wayne Schoper

Brazilian Ethanol Production
Wayne Schoper
Brown/Nicollet Extension Educator

The story of agriculture in this country begins before the discovery of Brazil by the Portuguese. Indigenous peoples had been conducting agricultural practices for untold generations previous to the arrival of the Europeans in the year 1500. Soon after their arrival, the Portuguese introduced sugar cane and started the first sugar cane processing mill in 1526. Since then Brazil has undergone many changes in the past 500 years with one constant through the years – the production of sugar cane. Queioz University in the city of Piracicaba located just south of the city of Sao Paulo in southern Brazil is one of the premier agricultural institutes in Brazil. During a recent visit, I had the opportunity to listen to some of the staff at the university discuss what some of the current and future issues that are facing the sugar cane industry in Brazil. This institute conducts much of the current research regarding sugar cane production to include variety selection and development, nutrient management, and the final processing of the plant into sugar and ethanol. The new varieties need to produce more sucrose and be more disease resistant. Brazil is currently undergoing a major expansion from 18 million acres of sugar cane production in 2008 to 40 million acres by 2020. Some of this increased production will go into sugar, but the majority will go into expansion of the ethanol industry. Currently, about 2/3 of the sugar cane acreage goes into ethanol production. This new production will increase overall production from 22.5 billion liters to 65.3 liters by 2020. This will also mean that Brazil will be the world leader in the production and export of ethanol. The country has the excellent climate and growing conditions, plenty of available land and labor, and the infrastructure to load it on ships and transport it around the world. Most of Brazil’s sugar cane production is located in the south-central part of the country in and around Sao Paulo state. There is some additional production located in the northeastern state of Bahia. The key to all of this is that the sugar cane must be grown within 10 miles of one of the 357 sugar cane processing plants located in the country. Much of the future processing will be loaded out of southern ports and shipped all over the world. Brazil’s true advantage over other agriculture production areas of the world is their abundant available land base. The land mass of Brazil exceeds that of the continental United States. We have heard mush about the production of corn and soybeans and what effect this has on world markets. Soybean production has exploded during the past 10 years all over Brazil and has pushed them to the forefront of world production. But the real story of Brazilian agriculture and world energy production is the ethanol boom. Currently, only 22% of Brazilian arable land is under cultivation. Many millions of acres are available to develop for crop production. This undeveloped land is currently held as pasture land. Much of this land has a very low pH which makes it too acidic for the kind of corn and soybean production that we see in the U.S. It would require major inputs of soil amendments in the form of lime and other fertilizers to bring this land to a productive state. While sugar cane will also need major amounts of fertilizer to produce, the cane will grow well on soils that are not ideal for corn and soy bean production.

So what is the future of sugar cane ethanol production in Brazil? One ton of sugar cane will produce enough ethanol to equal 1.25 barrels of oil. This renewable energy resource has allowed Brazil to be energy independent. 94% of Brazilian cars are flex fuel vehicles which allows them to burn anything from E-20 to 100% ethanol. This freedom from dependence on foreign oil supplies will continue to serve Brazil well into the future.



Tesmer, Schoper and Dolan - The rest of the story

There has been a lot of feedback on what we have seen during our week in Brazil. We have visited with Brazilian colleagues at Luiz de Queiroz College in Piracicaba. This visit turned out to be an unexpected pleasure as we discovered that several of the staff that we had talked to had Minnesota connections. Several of our Brazilian colleagues mentioned the name "Ed Shue" Ed was a University of Minnesota economiist who had worked with these individuals when they had the opportunity to come to Minnesota and spend some time teaching and learning. Professor Ana Lucia Kassouf talked to us about the Brazilian government's efforts to study and assist the large portion of the population living in poverty. Education will play a major role here as here as many adults have only a few years of limited education. The other presenters discussed various topics from entomology to economics to ethanol. On Saturday, we visited a farmer who was also invovlved with a business that purchased and re-sold grain. A highlight of the afternoon was going to one of his farm fields and observing soybean planting. He had the most up to date equipment and answered many questions that we all had. In contrast, we did a farm visit on Sunday where the farmer had a very efficient and probably a profitable farm that was outfitted with older equipment and older technology.


A visit to the Elevator & Farm - Bill Craig

Yesterday our group toured a Brazilian grain elevator and grain farm in the community of Itambaraca, Pr Br. We were welcomed by Antonio Malutta, one of four owners of BMV, a grain elevator and farm corporation. BMV was formed following the bankruptcy of the local cooperative grain elevator. The four owners partnered with another business that sells ag chemicals. By partnering, the owners of the elevator receives a lower cost for the ag chemicals and the owner of the ag chemical business gets exposure to farmers coming into the elevator, creating another marketing opportunity. I didn’t ask why the cooperative failed, but I would guess it happened during one of Brazil’s financial meltdowns the happened when their inflation rate was extremely high (triple digit) and their currency was devalued. That is not the case today, one could argue that Brazil is in better financial condition than the U.S. and many other countries.

The BMV corporation consists of the elevator with 520,000 bushels of grain storage and around 5,000 acres of crops. Crops grown by the BMV partners are Corn, Soybeans, Wheat, and Sugarcane. They buy Corn, Soybeans and Wheat from neighbors as well. Yields in the area range from; corn 100 -150 bu/a, Soybeans 50-60 bushels, and from 60-70 bushe3ls per acre of Wheat. They dry grain with wood primarily from the Eucalyptus tree. Natural gas is very high and wood costs $18.00 per cubic meter. I was told that it costs about 10 percent to dry corn with wood down from 23 % moisture to 13% moisture. Included in the costs are the two men each working twelve hour shifts to keep wood in the firebox.

Grain produced and purchased is marketed by a brother to one of the owners. He also works with production and financial records and the banker. To manage price risk, the grain is hedged on the CBOT through a broker. Sometimes BMV works with other elevators such as Bunge, Cargill or others to meet mutual goals. Crop insurance is available, but many farmers don’t buy it I was told because without a government subsidy, it is too expensive.

Last year 20% of Brazil’s corn crop was exported abroad. Of that amount about 30% went to China. Additional local markets are being developed. One is a feed mill the Cargill owns that supplies producers with chicken feed. Grain for export from the area we visited travels 250 miles East to a port on the Atlantic Ocean. From there it will travel to the EU, Japan, Africa, and India.

We then rode our bus out to the farm. A neighbor who Antonio says is one of the best farmers in the country, because he is a fanatic about details, was planting zero-til soybeans into wheat stubble. He was using a 165 hp New Holland tractor pulling a new John Deere zero-till Drill. Planting conditions were perfect for drilling into the red clay soils where there was adequate moisture for quick emergence. The clay soils there are about 4 to 5 percent organic matter and a pH of 6.2 to 7. The fields are slightly rolling providing very good soil drainage conditions. As I watched the planting taking place I thought to myself, boy wouldn’t it be fun to farm down here!
One of the questions I wanted to hear answered was this; “What are the top 3 problems facing Brazilian Farmers today?? The answer I received was,
1. The market volatility. The fear of being on the wrong side as the market moves.
2. Input costs have exploded, particularly for fertilizer, fuel , equipment, repair parts, and land.
3. Not enough political support from the government. “I don’t believe our government supports our farmers the way the United States and the European Union governments do theirs.?

In conclusion, the farmland around Itambaraca is some of the best quality and most productive in the world. Brazil is just beginning to utilize genetically modified hybrids on farms. I would expect their good yields to become much better over the next three to five years. Perhaps average corn yields will increase by 50 bushels per acre. Benefits of technology should result in higher yields and profits.


To Change or not to change

For me this trip has been a return to a country I have spent 2 years of my life working in. What has changed and what has not. Brazil is a vast country with much farm land and a climate to support an intense agricultural program. My Portuguese is getting a passing grade although at times there are words that have esacaped me.
So what is the same? The people are still friendly warm and open. 35 years ago I was somewhat lost in Sao Paulo City and when I asked one person for help within a few minutes I had a real committee on my hands and easily found my way. I have a sense their spirit is still that and more " agente boa" good people right nto the core.
What has changed? Brazil is developed in many ways. It seems as thouh many acres produce 2 crops a year. They are a major player in feeding the world. They are a world leader in energy independence. Cars here are flex fuel and can run on any mix of gas or ethanol. They are the Minnesota in the world in alternative agriculture. They are in this together with us and can be a great asset in moving the world into renewable fuel and energy independence.
When I worked in Brazil I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. I worked in Extension in Agriculture and Economic Development. Pretty much the same job description as I have now.
I worked with farms in the state of Ceara and the State of Maranhao. We will not get there on this trip. From what people say however they have progressed but stiil have a ways to go. I did do training in Sao Paulo and we did go to Matao where I was stationed for 3 months. The family I stayed with had moved but people there from the Marchesan Company helped me located where they had moved to and we have tried to find them. Anderson our tour guide has done the rest in nlocating them on ORKUT so we may find out all the news yet.
The other thing that has not changed is the capacity of Extension staff. All the relationships we have started with the people here and opportunities that happen with an open spirit can only help in a world that seems as if it will need to be rebuilt from the economic lows we see going down now throughout thye world.
In a global world there must be global outreach of a friendly hand. What follows next is up to all of us.


Diverse People and Land by Nathan Winter

Over the past 5 days we have had the great opportunity to travel around the country of Brazil. Fortunately, we will have a few more days to learn. We have seen a lot, but we have only seen a portion of this country and their people. One thing for sure is that we have seen a country that is very diverse in their people and their land.

The people of this country have a lot of similarities of those in the US. Both countries have a native population. We have seen many immigrants over the last 200 plus years in the United States. Brazil also had many people settle within their borders as well. Many of these groups were also from Europe and Asia and they still hold true to their past. You can find these groups living together in similar areas. You can look around and see people that look very similar to people in Minnesota, but they do not have a Minnesota accent. We have found the people we have worked with to be very friendly, which would be very similar to Minnesota. The people of Brazil also know a lot more about us then we know about them. They watch television shows from our country like CNN and are concerned about our trade policies. How many of us really know a lot about our own country, let alone others.

The other great diversity of their country is the land. We know of the huge flat cropland in the Matto Grosso region of the country. All you can see is fields for miles and miles. We are not even traveling to that region, but we have seen areas around Sao Paulo and Londrina that have rolling hills with a large variety of crops like sugarcane, soybeans, corn, cassava, castor bean, wheat, coffee, oranges, rubber trees, etc. They also have huge terraced and rolling pastures where their livestock graze. This area contains a lot of the potential cropland area of their country. What a vast country and a great opportunity to learn more about one of the large agricultural export countries.


November 15, 2008

Bugs, Bamboo, & Blight. Oh my! Invasive species in Brazil – Ian MacRae, Ryan Miller, Brad Carlson, and Gary Wyatt

The history of international travel and trade is the history of invasive species. Brazil, like everywhere else in the world, has its problems with invasives that have become pests - oranges in Brazil canbe attacked by Medfly (Mediterranean Fruit Fly) and Citrus Greening Disease (a bacterial disease that’s vectored by an insect, the Citrus Psyllid), bamboo is widely established and has become an urban forester’s nightmare, and there are a number of plant diseases – but this isn’t nearly as serious an issue in Brazil as in the U.S. There are fewer invasive species in agricultural systems here than in MN. According to producers and industry representatives, Brazil’s immense biodiversity, even in the semi-tropical regions we’re touring, goes a long way to prevent the successful introduction, establishment and dispersal of invasive species into agricultural systems. And invasives typically don’t do well in competitive, tropical habitats; certainly, the invasive species we’ve discussed have been primarily tropical species themselves and most of the cropping systems in which they have become established are perennial monocultures. The recognition of species as invasive, however, may also color the issue. While there seems to be minimal weed control in the systems we’ve visited so far, and industry representatives report invasive species are not an issue, university scientists report it is a funded research topic. While the extension presence among faculty at state universities is very strong (most of the faculty have what amounts to a 3-way appointment), we wonder if there has been significant educational effort on invasive species. Many producers, when pressed, do respond that the pests with which they are currently dealing are ‘new’ – you do the math…


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