Sugarcane is a tropical plant grown mainly in hot and humid regions and is currently cultivated in many areas of the world, including Latin America, where it has become one of the most important crops in the region. The European Commission issued a report highlighting that “Latin America and the Caribbean are the main sugar cane producing region in the world, with more than 30% of sugar production and 45% of exports” (Sugarcane modeling in Latin America and the Caribbean [Source]. The pace of crop expansion is generating more and more interest from growers to know which precision farming strategies can help make their sugarcane production in Brazil more efficient and sustainable.
Brazil, the leadership in use of biofuel
Due to the growing demand for both sugar and ethanol, sugarcane cultivation in Brazil has expanded significantly in recent decades. Brazil is a leader in the use of biofuels, especially with regard to ethanol produced from sugarcane. The country is the world’s largest producer and exporter of sugarcane ethanol and has developed a strong and well-established industry in the production of biofuels from sugarcane.
The state of São Paulo is the main producer, followed by Minas Gerais and Goiás. In addition, Brazil has implemented policies and programs to promote the use of biofuels in the transportation industry and has pioneered the development of technologies to improve the efficiency and sustainability of biofuel production. In 2018, the University of Campinas published a scientific article on the energy potential of sugarcane cultivation (Pereira Souza et al. 2018, Sugarcane can afford a cleaner energy profile in Latin America & Caribbean [Source].
Main challenges in sugarcane production in Brazil
A factor that has benefited the growth of sugarcane production in Brazil is the favorable climatic conditions and soil typology found in the country.
However, like many other crops, sugarcane production is also being affected by climate change. On the one hand, increased temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns, as well as more frequent extreme weather events can cause significant crop losses. Similarly, water scarcity and water usage restrictions are a recurring challenge in some areas of the country, so the application of irrigation optimization techniques will help maximize crop yields in many areas. For example, the proper application of remote sensing technologies can help to capture crop dynamics through cover measurements that can be related to soil condition characteristics, such as access to water or fertility. The ability to know the spatial variability of the farms allows an optimization in crop management that will ultimately result in an increase in production. These types of maps are known as productivity maps, and can be made using satellite imagery. By knowing the historical productivity of a plot of land, i.e., by analyzing the history of previous agricultural seasons through satellite images, farmers will be able to delimit and allocate resources more adequately.
Another challenges faced by sugar producers in Brazil is the appearance of pests and diseases, which increases the need to use pesticides, causing other important environmental impacts such as soil and water contamination. Drastic drops in crop greenness detected through these satellite images are also helping to quickly detect biotic stresses and allow to act to avoid production losses with the right amount of phytosanitary products, thus acting in a more sustainable way.
Drastic drops in crop greenness detected through these satellite images are also helping to quickly detect biotic stresses and allow to act to avoid production losses with the right amount of phytosanitary products, thus acting in a more sustainable way. One of the applications of these technologies in sugar production is to detect either planting errors or plants that are not producing. Since sugarcane is harvested by cutting the stalk at the base, leaving the leaves and roots so that the plant can grow again, this type of methodology makes it possible to detect if there are areas that need to be replanted.
HEMAV promotes change in biofuels Brazil’s sector
Through the SAT-TECH module, exclusive and rich databases of historical satellite images are created, with frequent updates, associated with agro-climatic information. This allows the customization of visions that support the diverse needs of the technical team for timely decision making.
PREDITIVE-TECH is the module that is revolutionizing sugarcane production in Brazil forever. By adding the customer’s historical information to the database, Artificial Intelligence comes into play to generate highly accurate sugarcane estimates. Both the ton/ha and ATR/ton indicators obtained deviations of less than 1.65%.
HEMAV’s LAYERS platform allows producers to access the results, satisfying the main needs of the mill and the market: LAYERS makes it possible to optimize resources, offer assertive working conditions to technical field personnel, and monitor the trend of biological assets.