Soybean rust has already caused R$150 billion in losses in Brazil

If not controlled, the disease would cause an explosion in the prices of meat, oil and foods, including vegans

01.10.2020 | 20:59 (UTC -3)
Rafael Iglesias placeholder image

Phakopsora pachyrhizi. This fungus with an unpronounceable name causes the most feared disease in Brazilian and global agriculture: Asian rust, which causes losses in food production. Since it was identified in southern Paraná 19 years ago, it has been responsible for losses of more than R$150 billion in soybean cultivation.

“Imagine the devastation of an agricultural area larger than the territory of the State of São Paulo. This is the potential damage that Asian rust can cause in Brazil if it is not well controlled”, informs the executive director of the National Union of the Plant Defense Products Industry (Sindiveg), Eliane Kay.

The failure of the soybean harvest caused by Asian rust would have a direct impact on the lives of all Brazilians. For starters, the oil used to fry food would be more expensive. The same would happen with the price of biodiesel, since soy is responsible for more than 80% of the production of this fuel in Brazil. The effects would reach meat (beef, chicken and pork), since poultry, pigs and cattle are the biggest consumers of soybean meal. “The lack of bran would cause an immediate and significant increase in the cost of producing animal proteins, making meat prices sky-high and making access unfeasible for most Brazilians. Even the production of medicines and cosmetics that use the grain in their composition would have their production chain affected.”

The disaster caused by Asian rust would also affect the Brazilian trade balance. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA), in 2021 Brazil should harvest more than 132 million tons of soybeans, with the planting of 380 thousand square kilometers of area, a space equivalent to 38 million football fields. “Rust can cause the loss of up to 90% of crops, taking Brazil out of the international soybean trade, which by August reached 74 million tons”, says Eliane Kay.

Asian rust is, therefore, the biggest concern for Brazilian soybean farmers and demands more than 80% of fungicide resources to defend the crop. “Fortunately, we have products to combat the fungus and protect crops before it arrives, but the challenge is very big. We must always be alert to this terrible enemy of soy and, consequently, of the Brazilian economy.”

Treatment guarantees food supply

The severity of Asian rust requires special treatment. In addition to the sanitary void (which is the period in which the area must not have any plantations) to avoid the perpetuation of the fungus, the rational use and following the technical recommendations of agricultural pesticides is the most effective way to prevent the disease and avoid losses. .

“The fungicides available on the Brazilian market are efficient and highly safe for those who apply them, for the plant, for those who consume the grains and also for the environment”, highlights Elaine Kay. “All agricultural solutions are scientifically tested over years before use in agriculture. Furthermore, they undergo rigorous analysis criteria by regulatory bodies, ensuring efficiency in the field and safety for the entire chain, so that they are then released to the market. However, producers must strictly follow the instructions of qualified professionals, in addition to paying attention to the information on the product leaflet and label, for the correct, safe and successful management of fungicides”.

“The agricultural solutions industry is committed to developing new technologies to benefit rural people and guarantee the success of food production in Brazil, thereby enabling democratic access for the population whether in the form of grain, oil, meat from fed animals with soybean meal and also vegetarian and vegan products, segments that are increasingly growing and gaining greater importance”, concludes Eliane Kay.

Soybean cultivation is not only harmed by the incidence of Asian rust, but also by other diseases that grow every year, such as anthracnose and target spot, caused by fungi. Unfortunately, in addition to diseases, several other productivity detractors, such as pests and weeds, also require the producer's attention and threaten the crop's productive potential on a daily basis. Examples include insects such as stink bugs, caterpillars and whiteflies, as well as resistant weeds, such as bitter grass, pigweed and fleabane.

Mosaic Biosciences March 2024