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July 5, 2019

Brazilian Scientists developing "Tropicalized" Canola Varieties

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

Brazilian scientists are always researching for ways to diversify and improve crop production in Brazil. One of the crops that they have been looking at is canola. Currently, canola acreage is very small and it is almost entirely grown in southern Brazil in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Conab is estimating that farmers in Rio Grande do Sul will plant 34,800 hectares of canola in 2019 (85,900 acres), which represents 98% of all the canola grown in Brazil.

Scientists from Embrapa have been working on developing canola varieties suitable for the cerrado areas of central Brazil and the semiarid regions of northeastern Brazil. They are calling this the "tropicalization" of canola.

Embrapa started on this project in 2004 in conjunction with university scientists in the states of Goias, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Paraiba. Scientists from Embrapa's wheat research station in Rio Grande do Sul helped to develop canola varieties for the low latitudes of 6 to 13 degrees south of the equator. In Brazil, these areas have either tropical or semiarid climates.

Conab confirmed that the productivity of some newly developed canola varieties in central Brazil are as high as 3,000 kg/ha (44.4 bu/ac), which is more than double the current national average of 1,300 kg/ha (19.2 bu/ac).

The overall goal is to increase the diversity of crops that can be planted as a second crop after soybeans. Currently, corn is the major crop following soybeans along with cotton in Mato Grosso and wheat in southern Brazil.

The introduction of a new crop in a new region carries risks as well as rewards. Scientists have been trying to introduce winter wheat as an alternative second crop in central Brazil following soybeans, but with limited success. The 2019 the winter wheat crop in central Brazil was hit very hard by the disease wheat blast, which is a fungal disease that can devastate wheat. An extended period of wet weather this year resulted in a severe outbreak of the disease.

No one knows for sure the type of diseases that could impact canola production in the future in central Brazil, but if canola can be successfully introduced into tropical Brazil, it could hold promise for canola production in other tropical regions of the world.