Embrapa technology helps maintain the pace of cowpea exports

Brazilian exports of cowpeas (cowpeas) in 2022 reached 46.353 tons

18.04.2023 | 15:11 (UTC -3)
The cowpea cultivars exported were developed by Embrapa Meio-Norte; Photo: Eugênia Ribeiro
The cowpea cultivars exported were developed by Embrapa Meio-Norte; Photo: Eugênia Ribeiro

Brazilian exports of cowpeas (cowpeas) in 2022 reached 46.353 tons, according to the Ministry of Development, Industry, Commerce and Services (MDIC). These numbers represent 34,07% of all bean exports in the country. The United States, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Canada and China were the countries that purchased the most Brazilian beans, according to the MDIC.

Brazilian revenue from these exports reached no less than US$30,2 million. Last year, according to the Brazilian Institute of Beans and Pulses (Ibrafe), the country produced 629,3 thousand tons of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata). Bahia, Ceará, Tocantins, Piauí and Mato Grosso, according to the National Supply Company (Conab), were the largest producers in the 2021/2022 harvest. For this year, Ibrafe projects even more encouraging numbers for exports: 150 thousand tons of cowpea and mung.

At the heart of the success of these numbers is the research and technology transfer work of Embrapa, which has been operating in Piauí for 48 years, with the Meio-Norte Unit, and which also develops actions in the State of Maranhão. The most exported cowpea cultivars in the last 10 years, according to researcher Maurisrael Rocha, continue to be BRS Tumucumaque, BRS Novaera and BRS Guariba, developed by Embrapa Meio-Norte, which is the Unit that coordinates the National Improvement Program Genetics of Cowpea and Mungo Beans.

Over the last five decades of intense work, dozens of cowpea cultivars have been developed, which are now planted throughout practically the entire country, with emphasis on the North, Northeast and Central-West regions. Four more cowpea and one mung bean cultivars are on their way to the Brazilian consumer market and, in the future, to the international market. “They are all cultivars with excellent performance that will soon be available to consumers”, promises Rocha, one of the coordinators of the National Genetic Improvement Program.

The exploration of cerrados in the Mid-North

Created from the physical structure of the “Apolônio Sales” Experimental Station, of the Northeast Agricultural Research and Experimental Institute (IPEAN), in Teresina, Embrapa in Piauí was born, in August 1975, from the State's need to develop the agricultural sector , mainly “the family agricultural system, targeting the crops of cowpea (cowpea), corn, grain sorghum, highland and lowland rice, cassava and mocó cotton”, recall researchers Milton Cardoso and Valdenir Queiroz, one of the pioneers at the Teresina Experimental Station (UEPAE).

They also highlight that the State needed to develop the fruit growing sector and advance in small animal husbandry, such as goats and sheep, and cattle. “At that time, in the fruit growing area, the most researched product was the cashew tree,” says Cardoso. “Then – he continues – research began with soybeans, herbaceous cotton and other alternative crops, such as sesame and sunflower”. It was the beginning of the exploration of the cerrado areas of Piauí and Maranhão, flat or gently undulating, which favor agricultural mechanization

The impact of Tropical soy

In the savannas, semiarid and humid valleys, Embrapa has been generating, adapting and recommending dozens of technologies, which have completely changed agriculture in the region. “With cotton, for example, we worked on several lines of research, such as genetic improvement, weed control and intercropping involving arboreal and herbaceous cotton”, highlights researcher Kaesel Damasceno, Research and Development manager at the Unit.

The scientist points to studies on the exploitation of rice in irrigated, rainfed and floodplain cultivation systems. With corn cultivation, he highlights research into the “adaptability of more than two dozen genotypes and the intercropping of corn with several alternative crops, such as soybeans, sesame, herbaceous cotton, cowpea, broad beans and rice”. 

In the work with soybeans, which marked the clearing of the cerrados in the Mid-North region, “the identification of the Tropical cultivar brought a great impact to Piauí and the Northeast, as it was the first national cultivar adapted to low latitudes”, recalls Damasceno. Piauí, today, with Embrapa's research and technology transfer actions and the work of farmers from Paraná and Rio Grande do Sul, who migrated to the State in the early 1980s, is one of the largest producers and exporters of soybeans. Of region.

The strength of Sisteminha and the Tropical ox

In addition to the success in practically all areas of agriculture and aquaculture, such as the development of feed for artificial feeding of bees and the identification of native species of shrimp, as well as the fishing management of the uçá crab, two technologies have also highlighted the work of Embrapa in the Mid-North over the last five decades. The Integrated Food Production System (Sisteminha Embrapa/UFU/Fapemig) is the one that shines the most, improving food and income for families in the North, Northeast, Center-West and Southeast regions. The technology is already successful in countries such as Ghana, Uganda, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Tanzania, Angola and Mozambique.

The “Sisteminha” is simple and gives good results in a short time. It consists of a homemade fish farming tank, a chicken coop, a worm farm, hydroponics, a composting shelter and a peripheral vegetable garden. The tank has a capacity of 5 thousand liters and works with a water recirculation system.In the pilot project, production capacity totaled around 25 kg of tilapia in 3 cycles per year.

The technology was created in 2002, by researcher Luiz Carlos Guilherme, during his doctorate in Animal Science at the Federal University of Uberlândia, in the Minas Gerais triangle. The system was improved by the Research Execution Unit (UEP) of Embrapa Meio-Norte, in Parnaíba, a municipality located 348 kilometers north of Teresina.

Thirteen years later, in 2015, the country gained its second cutting-edge technology with the first cattle from an industrial cross between bulls of the Brazilian breed Curraleiro Pé-Duro (Bos taurus taurus) and Nelore cows (Bos indicus indicus), of Indian origin. The tropical bovine is the result of six years of research carried out by Embrapa and the Federal University of Piauí (UFPI). The crossing was the first between these two breeds carried out using scientific methodology.

The new cattle, raised on native pastures, impresses with their superior zootechnical performance. It is precocious than the Nelore, goes to slaughter earlier - at just two years old and weighing 45 kilos of meat more under the same pasture conditions -. The Nelore is ready for slaughter at three years of age. Research has indicated that this new crossbreed produces 20 kilos of tender meat per 100 kilos of muscle in the carcass. Nelore, on the other hand, produces only 16 kilos in the same weight of muscle in the carcass.

Researcher Geraldo Magela Côrtes Carvalho, who coordinated the project, says that the “tropical” has more weight gain in less time due to an aspect that he is keen to highlight: "the animal has a smaller stature than the Nelore and, therefore, , can develop well in smaller paddocks, guaranteeing a stocking rate in the same passage up to 20% higher in the delimited area.” This aspect is very important for the animal's comfort, according to Carvalho.

“More productivity with social sustainability”

Highlighting the performance of Embrapa Meio-Norte in more than 60% in the “last agricultural frontier in the country”, Matopiba, a region formed by the States of Piauí, Maranhão, Tocantins and Bahia, the general head of the Unit, Anísio Lima Neto, projects a future of broad contribution to the country's agricultural development. “With sustainable food production, in integrated systems, such as ILP, ILPF, direct planting, intensive pasture management and recovery of degraded areas”, we are able to exploit the maximum potential production of the region, increasing productivity with environmental, social and economic sustainability”.

Anísio Neto points out the Unit's work towards Embrapa's national objectives: “We are strategically consolidating ourselves as an instrument that induces, promotes and brings together institutions so that, together, we can maximize expertise in favor of sustainable, balanced, socially fair development and with a strong environmental footprint, which strengthens the company's primary tool for the strategic development of this entire Northeast region.”

LS Tractor February