2018 Global Farmer Roundtable participant Edgard Ramirez was interviewed Oct 19 by Ag News Daily and below is some excerpts of that discussion followed by the link to the full interview.
Question: Tell us about your farm.
Answer: My family farm is about 300 kilometers from Cordoba to the south. And then I rent with partners more land in every part of the province and other provinces too.
Question: Predominantly corn and soybeans and a little bit of wheat? Was that mainly the crop rotation?
Answer: In general, summer crops: soybean and corn with no-till system because we love the technology and we are proud of it.
Question: Let’s talk about the no-till system because you’re doing a lot of research. You’re heading to Africa to help no-till in Africa, is that right?
Answer: Yes, I’m a member of Aapresid. Aapresid is an Argentinian farmers’ organization. Two years ago the African Development Bank asked us to help with food production in Africa. The bank runs a program called Feed Africa. And into the program, it’s a project first named TASI. It’s technology for African agriculture and transformation because the idea of the bank is in all the savannah, 26 different countries, it’s about 400 million hectares. It’s more or less twelve Argentinas in the area of production. Argentina plants about 32 million hectares. This is 400 million. And they have an idea that without irrigation systems, it’s impossible to make agriculture. And I said that it’s wrong because with a no-till system we learn how to store the rain water, help to protect the soils, how to do efficient agriculture. So the bank asked us to go to Ghana the first time and to try to adopt our technology. We’re working there in four different plots and they this year asked me (Aapresid) to go to Guinea to do the same.
Question: So when you talk about the technology that you’re utilizing for no-till, up here of course, we immediately think of RoundUp Ready crops, RoundUp Ready soy in particular. But I know in some places that’s not an option. What else are growers using for no-till?
Answer: Remember when I was young, younger – we planted in Argentina and every part of the world no GMO crops and we managed with different herbicides. In Argentina we have a problem because we managed in the wrong way the technology of RoundUp Ready. We have a lot of residual weeds. So we have to apply all chemicals. The same we are doing in Africa now. We are trying with the government to let us get plants with GMOs, but it’s a process. I was with the minister of food and agriculture, the minister of Ghana and we asked him why they don’t let us plant GMO crops. He told us eighty percent of the chicken that they can import is from Brazil and the chickens were fed with GM food. The same happened with beef and with milk. So he thinks it’s time for that question. In the Global Farmer Roundtable and at the World Food Prize, I think that people in Africa need information because they are wrong in this idea. They think that if they plant GMO corn, they will eat insecticides. It’s a big mistake. You have to teach them, to show them that they are wrong.
Question: We’ve got people in the US that still feel that way – if you’re eating a GMO crop you’re eating insecticide and it’s on Facebook every day, that kind of misinformation. So in your work with Aapresid, when you look ahead, do you feel as though the technological, the no-till movement is catching on? Are you seeing more and more farmers look towards no-till when you work with them in Africa?
Answer: Yes. Ninety percent of the crops in Argentina is in a no-till system. This is important for us. I think that not only Africa, we have to go sometime to China, to New Zealand, to India and the conditions of the environment, it’s good for no-till. For agriculture we need soil, we need temperatures and we need water. If you have the three things you can make efficient agriculture with no-till. It’s our idea.
Question: It’s worked in Argentina. And it’s worked in a lot of places in the US. North Dakota has been incredible with their adoption of no-till.
Bringing it back to Argentina, do you see a lot of acres transitioning from corn or wheat into soybeans this year because of what’s going on in the US?
Answer: In the south of Buenos Aires, the main crop is wheat and Argentina produces about 18 million tons of wheat. In the most parts of center south of the province of Buenos Aires. The other part of the country we have dry season and wet season. And during wet season in spring/summer you make summer crops. So we plant in a rotation. Sometimes we can put some sunflower but in general we put fifty percent of soybean and fifty percent of corn. And the other year we rotate. And this is the way we produce.
Question: That makes sense. So that limits the acreage expansion we could see and for those of us who haven’t been to Argentina – want to go but haven’t been. Ss there additional – we talk in Brazil about the Cerrado being converted to cropland. Is there additional acres in Argentina that can yet be converted to cropland or have you guys pretty much cropped all you’re going to be cropping?
Answer: When we think to go to Africa, we offered them the possibility to make the distance shorter because we made a lot of mistakes in Argentina when we developed the technology. We made agriculture in some fragile situations. We cut a lot of trees. Now we’re trying to avoid Africa to commit the same mistakes. We can share our experience. I think it’s most important. We don’t teach them how to do it. We have to work together because they know the soil, they know the people, they know the culture, the rains, the insects, but we have to share experience, knowledge…
Question: They know their ground. They know the way their systems work. You’re just helping them learn maybe the best way to do that.
Answer: And the culture because in Ivory Coast I suggested to the people to plant sorghum and in this area for the village, sorghum is religious. They can’t plant sorghum. It’s new for us too. So we have to manage this because we have to work with the culture of the people.
Question: Right, you can’t. If it’s religious you’re not going to be growing it.
Answer: I supposed it’s the same to India with cows and so we have to manage.