South America

Poor Soil Creates Boron Challenges

With its temperate climate and extensive land and water resources, it is no surprise that a large portion of South America’s economy stems from agriculture. The continent is one of the leading players in the global agricultural market and accounts for approximately 10% of the world’s agricultural exports. In several South American countries, such as Brazil, agriculture is central to the economy. Yet with only about one-eighth of the region’s land suitable for crops, growers need to make the most of the land available to them. 

South America can be divided into three physical regions: Mountains and highlands, river basins, and coastal plains. Soil conditions across these regions vary greatly. In the humid tropical regions, soil is naturally low in fertility. About one-fifth of the continent, primarily the coastal plains, is covered by arid soils which make farming risky without irrigation. Other regions are poorly drained, which means that vital nutrients are leached out of the soil. Additionally, large areas are affected by increasing variability in the length of rainy seasons and the occurrence of extreme events such as droughts and floods. Given these conditions, micronutrient deficiencies can severely limit annual crop production. 

Featured Regional Crops

Boron fertilization of soybeans has been shown to increase grain yield at many locations in several states. University researchers have found yield increases ranging from 5 to 18 bushels per acre.
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Boron has been universally recognized as the most important micronutrient for cotton production. It is essential at all stages of plant growth, and critically so during fruit development.
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Oil palm
Oil palm removes significant amounts of boron from the soil each year. And, boron is the most often deficient micronutrient in oil palm cultivation.
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Improve Soil Conditions with Boron Supplementation

Along with Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Bolivia face leached soils that are often lack nutrients and are acidic and low in organic matter—perfect conditions for boron deficiency. As agriculture assumes even greater economic importance in South America, producers can make even marginal land more productive by investing in a sound micronutrient management program. 

The addition of refined boron can lead to higher yields and more efficient fertilization. Boron enables the absorption and use of other macronutrients, along with providing important plant health benefits on its own. Subpar products might cost less up front, but high-quality refined boron is more cost competitive in the long run.

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In Brazil and Paraguay, more than 80% of soils have low to medium boron levels. Impurities, such as arsenic, compromise the quality of some borate fertilizers.

Resources for Farmers in South America

Availability of boron in Brazilian soils
Low pH soil is a good indication of boron (B) deficiency. In general, the tropical regions of the world have old and weathered soils with low organic matter. ... Learn More
Arsenic in fertilizers
Arsenic (As) is a naturally occurring, toxic heavy metal dispersed in the environment through a variety of industrial, mining, and agricultural activities. Hi... Read More
Key functions of boron in oil palm cultivation in Latin America
Boron (B) deficiency has been identified as the most common nutritional disorder in oil palm plantations around the world, and it is intensified in regions wi... Read More

U.S. Borax, part of Rio Tinto, is a global leader in the supply and science of borates—naturally-occurring minerals containing boron and other elements. We are 1,000 people serving 650 customers with more than 1,800 delivery locations globally. We supply around 30% of the world’s need for refined borates from our world-class mine in Boron, California, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Learn more about Rio Tinto.

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