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The soybean yield gap in Brazil – magnitude, causes and possible solutions for sustainable production

  • P. C. SENTELHAS (a1), R. BATTISTI (a1), G. M. S. CÂMARA (a2), J. R. B. FARIAS (a3), A. C. HAMPF (a4) and C. NENDEL (a4)...

Brazil is one of the most important soybean producers in the world. Soybean is a very important crop for the country as it is used for several purposes, from food to biodiesel production. The levels of soybean yield in the different growing regions of the country vary substantially, which results in yield gaps of considerable magnitude. The present study aimed to investigate the soybean yield gaps in Brazil, their magnitude and causes, as well as possible solutions for a more sustainable production. The concepts of yield gaps were reviewed and their values for the soybean crop determined in 15 locations across Brazil. Yield gaps were determined using potential and attainable yields, estimated by a crop simulation model for the main maturity groups of each region, as well as the average actual famers’ yield, obtained from national surveys provided by the Brazilian Government for a period of 32 years (1980–2011). The results showed that the main part of the yield gap was caused by water deficit, followed by sub-optimal crop management. The highest yield gaps caused by water deficit were observed mainly in the south of Brazil, with gaps higher than 1600 kg/ha, whereas the lowest were observed in Tapurah, Jataí, Santana do Araguaia and Uberaba, between 500 and 1050 kg/ha. The yield gaps caused by crop management were mainly concentrated in South-central Brazil. In the soybean locations in the mid-west, north and north-east regions, the yield gap caused by crop management was <500 kg/ha. When evaluating the integrated effects of water deficit and crop management on soybean yield gaps, special attention should be given to Southern Brazil, which has total yield gaps >2000 kg/ha. For reducing the present soybean yield gaps observed in Brazil, several solutions should be adopted by growers, which can be summarized as irrigation, crop rotation and precision agriculture. Improved dissemination of agricultural knowledge and the use of crop simulation models as a tool for improving crop management could further contribute to reduce the Brazilian soybean yield gap.

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