(Photo: bags of I-550 hybrid in the path to being planted in Patagonia)

Buenos Aires, October 9th. Most of the 6.5 million corn planted hectares of in Argentina are concentrated between the east of Cordoba, south of Santa Fe and north of Buenos Aires provinces. This area occupies a strip between 33 and 35º South latitude, where corn yields are able to reach 12 tons per hectare.

But in the Rio Negro province, placed at 40 South Latitude or 700 kilometers from the south of Cordoba, agronomists are discovering a huge potential to produce corn. “We are testing some hybrids, that reach yields until 17 tons per hectare”, Commercial Manager of Illinois Seeds, Tomás Liceda, comments in dialogue with eFarmNewsAr.

Illinois Seeds is a company focused on corn hybrids, owned by Grupo Don Mario (GDM Seeds), the largest soybean seed company in the country. He and his team are exploring the production of corn in the valley of the Rio Negro river.

“Currently we estimated that 16 to 20,000 hectares are being planted with corn in the valley. There is a boom of cattle rising and this is driving the forage production, with the corn leading the transformation of the land use, from fruits to feed”, Liceda explains.

Liceda says that there are many advantages to corn production in this zone. First of all, the high heliophany, large thermal amplitude (warm during the day, cold during the night) and low relative humidity create an ideal environment for the corn. “The Rio Negro valley is at the same latitude but in the South Hemisphere than the American Corn Belt, where highest yields are reached”, Lidea remarks.

“We are supplying farmers with our I-550 hybrid, the shortest cycle hybrid of our portfolio, but also testing other materials. The planting in this latitude is conditioned by the soil temperature in the spring and the frost in the fall. The “window” to grow corn is from November to March, despite some farmers are planting in the latest days of October if soil temperature is adequate”, he explains.

He estimates that around 100 to 120,000 hectares could be put into grain production in the Rio Negro valley. All of this acreage used irrigation, but gravitational one. In some areas it would be necessary to pump the water around 2 meters up, meanwhile, in the rest, the water flows by gravity.

Also, Liceda explains that farmers in the US Corn Belt are using higher densities than in the Rio Negro. “We are seeing that American farmers use density around 100,000 plants per hectare, while here the farmers use 85,000. We suspect that increasing the plant density could be a key to elevate the yields”, he thinks.

Liceda remarks that the environment is very good for the crop. Both the weeds and insect pressure are very low in comparison with the temperate zones of the country. This means lower costs to protect the crop.

On the other hand, there is a growing demand for feed, as cattle grazing is expanding, driven from the foreign demand (the zone is free of foot and mouth disease without vaccination). Even Japan authorized the import of beef from Patagonia. But, if the grain is not sold to the domestic demand, the Bahia Blanca terminal ports are only 400 kilometers far away from the valley, the same distance between the Cordoba corn fields to the Rosario ports.

Below: map of the Rio Negro Valley and its irrigate zones