Today, when Hans Heinrich Ruser goes to his farmland, located in the district of Carlos Antonio López, south-east Paraguay, he has some allies he didn’t have back in 1983, when he started: his faithful squire, Gaspar the dog; his daughter, Annemarie; and technologies that manage to fly hundreds of meters, monitoring the plantations of his farming business, the YBY PORÃ Group.
Ruser produces soy and corn in the summer, and wheat and oats in the winter. He’s delighted by the evolution that has occurred in the agricultural sector over the last 35 years: "The applications for products have become even more exact. Today, we make direct plantation, we have technical support and knowledge has advanced a lot."
A Technology-Savvy Next Generation
When Ruser eventually retires, his farm will remain in the family – and he’s proud to have the next generation already in the starting gates. Of all the agricultural engineers he can count on, his daughter Annemarie is undoubtedly his right hand. After graduating in 2014 from the National University of Asunción (Paraguay), she’s one of the people responsible for introducing novelties that, at first glance, resemble video games. "We have been doing precision agriculture for seven years, and now we have drones for soil control and compaction, as well as foliar and yield analysis," explains the 25-year-old engineer.
Agricultural production at the YBY PORÃ Group honors the origin of its name in Guaraní, the area’s indigenous language: "yby" is land and "porã" means fertile. It’s in this fertile land that soybean productivity reaches 4,300 kg per hectare. Overall, there are 23 other employees that assist this father-daughter team as they maintain and manage the plantation.
Father and daughter also work together to achieve another goal: safeguarding the farm’s abundant natural landscape, including a spring of crystal clear water. Since the 1970s, Paraguayan law requires farmers with more than 20 hectares to have at least 25 percent of their farmland as a protected area. In the YBY PORÃ Group, the forest cover is 40 percent. "In 1983, it was all bush here,” Ruser explains. “We know that without nature, there is no agriculture, and without agriculture, there is no food."
The new generation has the willingness to use drones and precision agriculture for soil development, and more technical products.
A Technology-Savvy Next Generation
Sixty kilometers south, another family is also celebrating their history of agricultural evolution. In 1973, after working in civil construction in Argentina for five years, Paraguayan "Don" Luciano Lovera returned to his land and bought his first truck. With the vehicle, he went on to market carrots in the regions of María Auxiliadora and Natalio.
Two years later, Lovera bought his first ten hectares of land and began the Santa Librada Group, which became one of the main grain producers in Paraguay. "We started with soy. Then came sunflower, cotton... Our soil is red, but very fertile," says the 70-year-old farmer.
Today, the company’s business operations include the administration of a port for exports, storage of up to 10,000 tons of grains, a fleet of 20 trucks – and the land itself: Today, there are almost 6,000 hectares for agriculture. The company consists of more than 100 people, but Don Luciano relies on the support of two people in particular: his sons, Alberto, who chairs the group, and Rodolfo, who acts as a technical director.
Rodolfo, despite being the youngest, brings his experience as an agricultural engineer and familiarity with technology and tools. "I select the seeds that will be used in the crops along with the devices that will protect the crops," he says. To do this, he uses technologies, such as drones, and satellite-based applications that monitor pests. This is of particular importance because every year Paraguayan crops face the threat of Asian rust and chinch bugs, which are the main challenges to productivity.
On the fields of the Santa Librada Establishment, technology is also allied with the environment. To reach maximum autonomy, they have been planting their own eucalyptus for seven years. "Where it was not feasible to have extensive crops, we started a reforestation that generates energy for the silos. In the areas of cultivation, we apply contour plowing that follows the curves of the land, rather than working straight up and down slopes. Working with the land’s actual shape makes better use of rainwater and avoids erosion," explains Alberto Lovera, the oldest son, who has been working alongside his father for the last 14 years.
This combination of tradition and modernity has resulted in a true showcase for agribusiness: Productivity has jumped from 3,000 kilos of soybeans per hectare in 1980 to 6,000 kg per hectare today. Much of their production of soy, wheat, corn, canola, sorghum and sunflower goes to demanding international markets such as the United States and Europe. To satisfy the high quality requirements of these clients, Lucero’s properties are certified by Cargill within the 2BS Sustainable Farmers program. Among other criteria, this seal recognizes that their production does not occur in reforestation areas and that all employees are of legal age.
Alongside his sons, Don Luciano walks the plantation every day. He still gets emotional remembering the challenges they had to overcome to reach the position they have achieved – and he offers new farmers the same advice that he gave his children: "To work in agriculture, you have to be passionate about the countryside. You can have knowledge, technology and equipment. But passion is fundamental."
We farmers must continue to evolve to feed all who live in the city.
Asian Soybean Rust – a Devastating Fungal Disease
The first symptoms of soybean rust begin as small brown spots on leaves. As more spots form on a leaflet, the affected area begins to yellow, and eventually the leaflet falls from the plant. Yield losses as high as 30 to 80 percent have been reported. Because current soybean cultivars lack resistance or tolerance, the only highly effective control of Asian Soybean Rust is through the use of fungicides.