Embrapa program anticipates corn planting by up to 20 days

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An unprecedented grain production system, developed by Embrapa Milho e Sorgo (MG), promises to further increase the production of soybeans and safrinha corn. This is Antecipe, an interim cultivation method that makes it possible to reduce the risks caused by climate uncertainties during the second harvest. The result of 13 years of research, the technology consists of three pillars: an unprecedented system of grain production, an exclusive seeder-fertilizer and an application to assist the producer in making the best decisions.

Researcher Décio Karam, the project leader, explains that “Antecipe was developed and improved by research and validated in several regions of the country that adopt safrinha, such as Minas Gerais, Paraná, Goiás and Mato Grosso”. According to him, the results have been promising, both in the operations of interim planting of corn, as in the harvest of soybeans and in the development of corn after the harvest of this legume.

For the chief general of Embrapa Milho e Sorgo, Frederico Durães, Antecipe is a system that is evolving rapidly, in the public-private partnership, with great potential to impact the development of Brazilian agriculture. “It is an innovation that involves knowledge and tangible and intangible technological assets”, he says.

How does the Antecipe System work?

In practice, the Antecipe System begins with the mechanized sowing of the corn crop between the lines of the soybean, when the legume is in the grain filling phase, starting at the R5 stage.

At harvest time, corn is cut along with soybeans, leaving only a small stem from each corn plant. However, at that moment, the entire corn crop is already in place, with roots in full development and ready to continue growing.

Photo: Embrapa Corn and Sorghum

With the system, the producer can anticipate the planting of off-season corn by up to 20 days and reduce the risk of loss of productivity due to adverse weather conditions, which occur in late summer and early autumn. Thus, the corn crop can develop in season with more favorable precipitation, which allows gains in productivity and profitability.

According to Karam, “this anticipation of planting corn also makes it possible to reduce the cost of soy production, since it is no longer necessary to desiccate this crop to anticipate the harvest, which brings operational, economic and environmental benefits”. In addition, in regions with greater experience in the off-season, it is possible to use soybean cultivars with a longer cycle, notably more productive than early cultivars, without prejudice to corn productivity in the sequence.

Another opportunity to use the technology is the implantation of safrinha corn in agricultural regions where the second crop has not yet been fully established, opening windows of cultivation that were previously limited or unfeasible.

The seeder-fertilizer

Patented by Embrapa, the seeder-fertilizer represents a new concept for the Brazilian market. The machine makes the planting and fertilization of corn, between the lines of the soybean, without any mechanical damage, kneading, loss of leaf area or other damage that compromises the productivity of this oilseed.

In addition to the specific adaptation for interim cultivation, the machine also performs all seeder-fertilizer operations for conventional plantings.

In 2019, Embrapa and Jumil, an agricultural implements company, started a partnership for the industrial construction of the first prototype of this seeder-fertilizer.

Embrapa program anticipates corn planting by up to 20 days

Photo: Embrapa Corn and Sorghum

In this 2020/2021 harvest, the implement will undergo fine adjustments in real production environments in order to meet the requirements of the protocols for its scale production and commercialization from the 2021/2022 harvest.

The CEO of Jumil, Fabrício Rosa de Morais, explains that, in this first phase of the project, the seeder-fertilizer was developed with the small and medium producers in mind, giving them the opportunity to compete in results, reduce risks and increase productivity . Morais also highlights the success and speed of development of this prototype, which, even with the pandemic, managed to meet all planned schedules.

The application

The Antecipe application is a strategic service for the new system, as it facilitates decision making in the field. The producer will be able not only to monitor the phenological stages of the soybean crop, but also to obtain guidance on the appropriate time for the implantation of the corn crop, within the technical premises of the Antecipe System. The application is already in the final testing phase.

Embrapa program anticipates corn planting by up to 20 days

Photo: Embrapa Corn and Sorghum

Systems analyst Pedro Gomide, from Embrapa Milho e Sorgo, explains that “this application also stores the data entered by the producer on the cultivation of soybeans and corn, in addition to information on the soil analyzes carried out, the crop treatments and fertilization”. Thus, in addition to sending a text message advising the time for the practices, the application will also serve for the producer to have a history of his crop.

How corn maintains productivity at Antecipe

In the Antecipe System, when soybeans are harvested, corn is also cut, leaving only a small stem. Even so, this culture does not have its productivity compromised by this stress. How does this happen? One of the key points of the knowledge generated during the research is the appropriate moment for each agricultural operation.

Researcher Paulo César Magalhães, from Embrapa Milho e Sorgo, explains that, with the early defoliation of corn plants in the V4-V5 stage, naturally there is a total loss of 3 to 4 fully expanded leaves and a partial loss of 3 to 4 leaves that are still in development and are in the plant cartridge. “Soon after defoliation, the corn will sprout, recovering from that stress, emitting new leaves from the damaged cartridge and resuming its normal growth. This is because the growth point [tecido meristemático] it is still below the surface of the soil ”, he adds.

Magalhães states that experimental results from a large number of studies demonstrate that maize productivity should not be influenced by this initial loss of leaves. “The explanation is due to the fact that these leaves are small in size and their degree of contribution to grain production is very low. Therefore, this small loss of the source of photoassimilates in V4-V5 will be insignificant in the most decisive phases for the production of grains, such as the filling period, ”he points out.

Relevance

In the 2019/2020 harvest, Brazil exceeded the volume of 100 million tons of corn. Of this total, 74 million tons come from the second harvest, sown after the soybean harvest. Although this result is impressive, adverse climatic conditions, mainly in the central-south region, reduced the productive potential of off-season corn in this agricultural year.

In the 2020/2021 harvest, the climate scenario may be even more severe, with the presence of the phenomenon known as La Niña, which influences the distribution of rainfall in all regions of Brazil.

Researcher Emerson Borghi, from Embrapa Milho e Sorgo, says that at the beginning of the harvest “many areas in almost all the soy producing states in the Midwest and North regions are already suffering from the delay of rains and the planting has been severely affected. In some regions, to recover the cultivated area, the producer is having to work almost 24 hours a day to be able to plant soybeans ”.

Late planting increases the risk of rain or frost at the time of soybean harvest and, as a result, there is a greater delay in the implementation of off-season corn. But the problems in planting soybeans are not just caused by delays. Farmers in Paraná, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, Goiás and Tocantins have started planting soybeans before the rainy season or immediately after the first rain.

With this, the producers hope to plant the off-season corn sooner, soon after the legume harvest. This practice, however, can harm not only the germination and emergence of the soybean plant – since the seed does not find enough water in the soil -, but also the crop’s own productivity.

Borghi explains that this is one of the advantages of Antecipe, because “the producer will be able to anticipate the cultivation of corn by up to 20 days, before the soybean harvest. As a result, it will bring soybeans to the ideal growing season in your region and reduce the risks of implantation of off-season corn. ”

The researcher warns, however, that Embrapa is not recommending a change to the safrinha maize cultivation system that exists today in Brazil. “Antecipe is a technology to reduce risks. In other words: that corn that was being planted outside the recommended season, now, returns to the ideal planting window ”, he highlights.

Thus, the Antecipe System demonstrates enormous relevance for reducing risks in the off-season, which is responsible for more than 70% of the national production of corn and has the potential for continued expansion.

In addition, this cultivation system is in line with the main strategic guidelines of the Brazilian government in reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and with the National Low Carbon Emission Agriculture Policy (ABC Plan).

Karam hopes that “after the commercial launch of Antecipe in 2021, new adaptive research involving other species and regions will be able to serve small and medium-sized producers, especially in Northeast Brazil”.

Main impacts

  • Early establishment of the corn crop, with reduced risk of frustration due to loss of productivity in the off-season, due to the adverse climatic conditions at the end of the summer and early autumn;
  • Possibility of growing corn in sequence to that of soy, even for soybean cultivars with a longer cycle, with considerable gains in the succession and / or rotation system;
  • Possibility of reducing the cost of operating chemical products (herbicides for desiccation of soybean crops and post-emergence corn herbicides);
  • Optimization of the use of fertilizer inputs for high system productivity;
  • Expansion of maize cultivation to regions previously limited by the Agricultural Climate Risk Zoning (Zarc), with more stability in the off-season, due to the reduction of frustration risks;
  • Possibility of developing new models of intercropped crops, starting with the soy / corn system, but can be validated later, with a high potential for impact on other crops, such as sorghum, wheat, millet etc., in addition to the possibility of cultivating forage grasses for composition of new cultivation modalities for crop-livestock integration.

History and partnerships

The interim corn cultivation research between the soybean lines began in 2007, in the city of Sete Lagoas, Minas Gerais, in a partnership between Embrapa and Basf. At that time, the experiment was planted manually, but the initial results already demonstrated the potential of this technology.

In 2010, the development of the first prototype of the seeder-fertilizer machine began, patented by Embrapa.

In 2019, the interest of the company Jumil arose in establishing a partnership with Embrapa Milho e Sorgo in order to improve the prototype of the seeder-fertilizer machine to obtain an industrial scale machine model, with potential market value for making the Antecipe System feasible in the territory national. A public-private partnership contract for RD&I was signed in 2020.

The collaborative and transdisciplinary character marks the development of Antecipe. As this is a wide-ranging innovation with a great impact on Brazilian agriculture, the technological assets involved count on the contribution of several specialists, not only from Embrapa Milho e Sorgo, but also from other research units, such as Embrapa Informática Agropecuária (SP ), in the development of the application, and Embrapa Soja (PR), a partner from the beginning, in the work to generate knowledge and in the validation tests of the system. For Durães, Antecipe is an example of how Embrapa has expanded its capacity to establish strategic alliances on relevant issues for Brazil.





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