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Farming in Argentina – “The 21st Century Started in 2016”

About

  • Date

    09 Juni, 2017

About

Date

09 June, 2017

Rarely can a change of president have had such a dramatic impact on a country’s agricultural sector as Mauricio Macri’s election to the Argentinian presidency did in December 2015. The previous regime had imposed strict export quotas on wheat and corn. As only soybeans could be freely exported, farmers were forced into an unhealthy focus on that one crop and were unable to implement the diversified crop rotations needed to reduce weed selection pressure and avoid herbicide resistance issues. Mr. Macri removed the quotas, and Argentinian farmers like Santiago del Solar have now more options to tackle weed resistance. For them the 21st century arrived very late.
Agriculture accounts for around 20% of Argentina’s gross domestic product and some 60% of its exports. Before the quotas were abolished, soybeans were grown on approx. 60% of Argentina’s total cropping area, with soybean/soybean, wheat/soybean, wheat/corn and corn/soybean the main crop rotations. The problems caused by the politically imposed soybean dominance have been exacerbated by a marked increase in Glyphosate resistance since 2010. From the late 1990s Argentinian farmers had been over-using this herbicide on different crops to control a variety of weeds. As Santiago de Solar adds, “what I call the Glyphosate generation worked with just one herbicide for about 15 years and didn’t know much about weeds. But that came to a sudden end and now we’re trying to find new weed control strategies, which isn’t easy.”

Weed resistance is indeed increasing dramatically and has become one of the most serious issues for Argentinian farmers. During the past five years, confirmed resistant biotypes have exploded exponentially. The figures are alarming: 17 biotypes (40% broadleaf, 60% grasses), 13 weed species, 80% resistance to Glyphosate, and five cases of multiple resistance. The most relevant resistant weeds are Conyza, Amaranth and Sorghum halepense. We talked to one Argentinian farmer who is fully aware of the scale of the resistance problem.

Besides acting as an agricultural advisor to other farmers, Santiago del Solar manages his two family farms: an 8,000 ha farm in Trenque-Lauquen in the far west of Buenos Aires employing 14 people, and a 1,900 ha farm in Rojas in the northwest of the same province employing ten people. Soy-beans, wheat and corn are regularly grown at both farms, sunflowers occasionally, and double cropping is common. Both farms are highly productive. “This year, our soybean yields in Trenque-Lauquen are 30% above the national average and we harvest corn at 10 t/ha,” Santiago says. “Preci-sion farming is one of the key factors. Now that the export quotas have gone, I’m free to practice a better-balanced rotation and have planted 50% more wheat than in 2015 and 40% more corn.”

That, he knows, is a step in the right direction. But what about weed resistance? “Conyza became a problem from one year to the next and I’ve also discovered resistant palmer amaranth on my land. So we’ve developed new weed management strategies to tackle these resistance issues and are even returning to old chemistries to add diversity to our herbicide modes of action.” Another step forward, even if it seems more like a backward one

What is Santiago’s advice to other farmers? “We need to recognize that we’re going through a transition phase and no balance has yet been reached. To achieve a new balanced approach to weed control we need to collaborate and share information with other farmers, advisors and the crop protection industry. It’s particularly important not to hide any resistance problems you may have as a farmer. My advice is to go for a holistic solution involving good crop rotations, clear identi-fication of what weeds you have, and an effective weed management strategy. There is no single silver bullet.”

About

Date

09 June, 2017

Country Initiative

Country Initiative

Diversidad es Futuro

Learn more about the Argentinian initiative