01 March 2010

Economies of Scale

Field and farm sizes here are on a different scale than back in the States. Two weeks ago, I visited "Runciman" a farm close to Venado Tuerto that had 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) all in one tract of ground. This farm was a bit unique in that it had a working railroad pass through one edge of it and the farm had its own grain bins and driers. All of the land was either Class I or Class II. The entire farm was in a corn-wheat-double crop soybean - full season soybean rotation, where corn is grown every three years. The farm is broken into almost equal units, with about 1/3 in corn this year, 1/3 in double crop soybeans and 1/3 in full season soybeans.

This farm is wholly owned and the managers wanted to keep the rotation for long-term productivity. (This year, soybeans were more profitable because of the market prices here. Corn cannot be exported from Argentina, which has artificially lowered the price of corn.)

Like most farms I have visited, this farm contracts most of the work. The only exception is that they have one small sprayer used mostly for herbicides. This farm is 100% no-till (or direct seed "siembra directa" as they call it). Runciman is not part of a CREA group, but they work with INTA on research plots.
I was impressed with the size of the operation, the simplicity of the operation and efficiency at which it was able to operate.

Later in the week, I visited "La Baya"another farm close to Venado Tuerto, with just over 4,000 hectares (9,880 acres) all in one tract. Corn, soybean and cattle are raised here. To my understanding, this farm was owned by a single family. I noticed a combine parked outside with a tarp over it and a tractor and planter, also parked outside, but no other equipment.

The agronomist for La Baya is active in CREA and they hosted a workshop on stink bug identification, thresholds and control. Other agronomists from other companies in the same CREA group attended the workshop. I'll write more about the workshop in another post.

Visiting two farms in the same week, one with 7,400 acres and the other with 9,880 acres was amazing. The ability to farm all of that ground,... all of that ground that was contiguous,...  all of that ground that was mostly level,... the natural resources and the scale at which farming can occur here is amazing.

I have been told that most CREA companies (farms) are typically larger than average in Argentina. So, I recognize that I am not seeing the "average" farms. Having said that, what I have seen in terms of natural resources, and the economies of scale is awesome.

One sprayer for 3000 hectares? Most of the herbicides on this farm are applied with this sprayer. Having all the ground in one spot makes things much easier.
About a 300-acre field of soybeans (by my estimation). 9,800 acres in one spot and fields about 300 to 500 acres in size. This makes for efficient farming.
Anyone like to see four soybeans in a pod? This plant had several pods with four seeds. More soybeans in a pod does not guarantee higher yields, unless you get rains during seed fill. They have gotten rains during seed fill, so the yields should be excellent.

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