Producers invest in techniques to reduce costs in SP sugarcane plantations
A new way to plant sugarcane is reducing the cost and increasing the productivity of the crop. Farmers and scientists from São Paulo, the state that produces the most cane in Brazil, spoke about the news.
Sugar cane in Brazil is an activity that encompasses hundreds of mills, thousands of farmers and workers and a crop that spreads over 8 million hectares. To keep this gear running, every year a part of the Brazilian sugar cane has to be replanted. This is because a crop usually has good productivity for five harvests. Then production tends to fall. It is time to make the so-called reforestation or replanting of the cane field.
Sugarcane replanting can be done in several ways. Currently, the most common method is a grandiose operation. A job that involves heavy machinery, tractors, transshipments. Everything to do the transport and replanting of the sugar cane in the areas that need reform.
On the farm in the São Paulo municipality of Motuca, the work is done with planters, which dump the seedlings, also called grinding wheels or stems, into the grooves. They are pieces of cane that will sprout on the ground to give rise to a new crop.
With less budding, the producers end up using a large amount of seedlings per hectare. What makes the operation even more laborious and expensive.
In recent years, the high cost of the reform has added to a delicate moment: the sugarcane chain has faced a crisis, with low prices, unfavorable climate and indebtedness. With less money, farmers and mills have slowed replanting.
"We have a 12% to 13% renewal rate in the last two seasons. The ideal would be to reform 18% of the area harvested annually to have a good cane field, a balanced cane field, "says economist Antônio de Pádua Rodrigues.
For some months now, as sugar prices have improved, sugarcane reform has grown again, but remains below the ideal rate of 18%.
It was precisely the scene of crisis of the last years that gave impulse to a new way to replant the cane fields. The goal is to reduce costs and improve the efficiency of the reform.
One of the pillars of change is the pre-sprouted cane or MPB seedling. The unit of the Agronomic Institute of Campinas - IAC in Ribeirão Preto is a reference in this type of technology. The agronomist Marcos Landell explained that the great change is to abandon the planting based on tons of stems and begin to plant cane with precise spacing, seedling per seedling.
The production of MPB is not complicated. In IAC, the first care is to obtain quality stems, coming from free crop diseases. In the greenhouse, they are cut into small pieces with only one yolk; receive anti-fungal treatment and then go to the tray for substrate cultivation. Handled with care, the seedlings sprout and grow quickly. In two months, they are ready for planting in the field.
Pre-budded seedlings can be used to plant whole cane fields. But in practice MPB has been more used in a different management, called meiosi. A method of replanting sugarcane plantations that emerged in the 1990s at Universidade Estadual Paulista - Unesp, Jaboticabal. But only in the last few years has it started to be more used by farmers, especially in São Paulo.
The agronomist Igor Pizzo is the technical director of Coplana, a cooperative in the north of the state that is home to 1.2 thousand suppliers of sugarcane and has been encouraging the use of meiosis in partnership with IAC. "Meiosi is inter-rotational method occurring simultaneously. The general objective is for us to form the greenhouse of seedlings within the area of renovation itself, "he says.
The method works as follows: in an area that will be reforested, shortly after harvest, in September and October, farmers prepare the land and plant pre-sprouted seedlings. The spacing is 15 meters between rows and 60 centimeters between plants. It is these seedlings that, later, will be used for the replanting of the entire area. In the rest of the land, farmers sow legumes, such as soybeans and peanuts.
Currently, this model is being used by 32 Coplana cooperatives, such as Rogério Bonaccorsi. It has 400 hectares of cane plantations in the São Paulo municipality of Luiz Antônio. With the guidance of the cooperative and the IAC, the farmer began to produce his own pre-sprouted seedlings and formed meiosi areas with cane and peanuts.
According to Rogério, the first advantage of meiosi is that peanut coverage increases soil moisture and protects the soil against erosion. Another benefit of planting peanuts or soybeans in the reforestation areas is to break the cycle diseases and cane pests such as the nematode.
Six months after planting the cane and four months after planting the peanut, the meiosi area has tall, well-formed cane lines. And the peanut is green and lining the soil well. At this stage the harvest begins.
The peanut harvest occurs between February and March and has two stages. First, the implement pulls out the plants and rolls the peanuts that were underground. Then, other equipment ends the harvest and dumps the product into trucks. All the work is done by contractors who rent the lands of Rogério. They take care of peanuts, from planting to final sale, and they pay a fixed price of R $ 1,000 per hectare.
After harvesting, the area previously covered with peanuts begins to receive sugarcane. It is the cut of the cane, the final step of the renewal made with meiosi.
The cooperative farm of Coplana in Jaboticabal began using meiosi in 2012. The agronomist Ismael Perina Júnior grows 580 hectares on the property. In the area where the peanut was harvested three days ago the cut is being carried out by eight farm employees. They cut the cane from the rows, planted with pre-budded seedlings, and then take the stems to the grooves. They do not stay stacked, as in conventional planting, but aligned one after the other.
"The great advantage is that I use much less seedling per hectare than the conventional system. So I get off using 20 tons for something around 4 to 4.5 tons per hectare, "says the agronomist.
This reduction occurs because in meiosi the cane used in planting was produced from pre-budded seedlings. A uniform material, young and growing in the area itself, does not pass through transhipments or heavy machinery, not suffering from knocks and injuries typical of conventional planting. For all this, the stems have great capacity for budding.
But after all, how much does it cost to reform with MPB and meosi? Values vary from farm to farm. While the conventional replanting is around R$ 7,500 per hectare, in the case of the Ismael farm, the reform had an average cost of R$ 4.8 thousand per hectare. This already included labor costs, inputs, pre-budgeted seedlings - which he buys from a private company - and income from peanuts. There was a reduction of 36%.
In addition to winning cane suppliers, MPB and meiosi are also gradually being adopted by some sugarcane mills in São Paulo. The IAC researchers believe that technologies must continue to gain space in the coming years throughout Brazil.
Farmers and scientists heard in the report say that the meiosis formed cane fields are more vigorous and productive, but they will still need more research time to know what the real average productivity gain is for this crop model.