Soybeans in Argentina
The soybean is king in Argentina. The country grew 20 million hectares of soybeans in 2015 and the crop remains the country’s main export – valued higher than Argentina’s cereal, automotive and petrochemical exports. Today, 60 percent of the world’s soy biodiesel, and more than 40 percent of global soybean oil and soy meal production, originates in Argentina. The health of the soybean crop is, therefore, of great national interest.
The biggest challenge facing soybean farmers in Argentina is the caterpillar – whether it’s a leaf eater, pod eater or stem borer. Miguel Angel Ortolani has been farming for 40 years and is well acquainted with the pest. “It’s pretty bad everywhere, but the northern region has it the worst,” he says. Plant scientist Gabriela Luciani agrees: “The damage to a farmer’s crops can be really devastating, causing dramatically reduced yields and, in some cases, entire crop losses.
Argentina’s soybean farmers are dependent on plant scientists like Gabriela to develop effective methods to protect their crops. Specifically, she has developed biotech soybeans that are resistant to caterpillars. Around a third of Argentine farmers are now using the insect-resistant variety. “To see the products that we started in a breeding program now selling as the best products in the market is inspiring,” says Gabriela.