The importance of cultivars for agriculture

By Fernando Mendes Lamas, Researcher at Embrapa Agropecuária Oeste

29.12.2023 | 15:07 (UTC -3)

Cultivars or plant varieties of different plant species are intended for agricultural production and result from plant improvement programs conducted by public and/or private research. Plant improvement programs are long-term, with obtaining a cultivar taking eight to 12 years for annual species and 20 to 30 years for perennial species (fruit trees, vines and forestry).

Since the beginnings of agriculture, man has sought to improve “the seeds” he used. Improved seeds have played, and still continue to play, a very important role in agriculture in all parts of the world. Brazilian researchers have been working on the genetic improvement of the main cultivated species for many years. Brazil, a continental country, is characterized by enormous variability, especially in soil and climate. This variability requires the development of cultivars of different species adapted to different environments. Thus, it is possible to grow soybeans in Rio Grande do Sul, Mato Grosso, Maranhão, Bahia and Roraima. Thanks to research work carried out in Brazil, a species whose center of origin is China, like soybeans, can now be cultivated in most parts of the country, obtaining excellent productivity in different regions. 

Photo: Danilo Estevão
Photo: Danilo Estevão

The research work carried out in Brazil, in addition to providing cultivars adapted to the most varied climate and soil conditions, incorporated tolerance and resistance to pests and diseases, thus allowing cultivation in the most diverse environments possible. Thanks to advances in knowledge, we now have cultivars with different characteristics, for example, tolerant to herbicides, pests, diseases and nematodes, which produce fiber with different shades and with different cycles. The soybean cultivars BRS 511 are tolerant to Asian rust and BRS 543 to stink bugs, both developed by Embrapa.

If we analyze the list of soybean, corn and cotton cultivars recommended for cultivation in the 2019/2020 harvest in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul, we will see that there are almost 50 cotton cultivars and more than 600 soybean and corn cultivars. The high number of cultivars allows the farmer to identify those that best adapt to his reality. 

Photo: Sérgio Cobel da Silva
Photo: Sérgio Cobel da Silva

If, on the one hand, the increase in the supply of cultivars and hybrids is good, on the other hand, it requires more information about them. Technical assistance plays an important role in helping farmers choose the most suitable cultivar for their conditions. Perhaps an observation is worth making here: the wrong choice of a cultivar or hybrid can be the cause of failure in a given agricultural enterprise. We have examples of this in Brazil. Therefore, regionalized studies are increasingly necessary so that producers can understand the behavior of a cultivar in environments more similar to their own, which significantly increases the probability of success.

Photo: Renata Silva
Photo: Renata Silva

 Other information that is extremely important so that a cultivar can express its full productive potential, such as nutritional requirements, sowing time, plant population, reaction to pests, diseases and nematodes, among other characteristics, are the responsibility of the institutions that developed the cultivar. grow crops. It is always recommended that the farmer uses more than one cultivar, with some difference between them, especially with regard to the cycle, this minimizes the risks, for example, of a drought. In summary: much of the success of an agricultural enterprise depends on the correct choice of cultivar or hybrid. The cultivar or hybrid, in isolation, is not capable of overcoming all the limitations imposed by the environment, which is why knowledge about the differences between the cultivars available on the market is essential.

*Per Fernando Mendes Lamas (in the photo), Researcher at Embrapa Agropecuária Oeste

Mosaic Biosciences March 2024