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April 2, 2012

Planting Window Now Open for Irrigated Wheat in Central Brazil

The vast majority of Brazil's wheat is produced in southern Brazil where the climate is more favorable for wheat production, but irrigated wheat production in central Brazil is gaining in popularity. Conab estimates that 2.1 million hectares of wheat will be planted in Brazil in 2011/12 and that approximately 50,000 hectares will be irrigated wheat grown in the cerrado regions of central Brazil.

The Brazilian research agency, Embrapa, recommends that irrigated wheat grown in the cerrado regions of Minas Gerais, Goias, western Bahia, the Federal District, and Mato Grosso only be grown in areas where the altitude is above 500 meters in order to have the appropriate temperatures and relative humidity. The ideal time to plant irrigated wheat in central Brazil is from April 1st to May 30th. The wheat varieties recommended for the region has a growth cycle of 110 to 120 days. Under ideal conditions, irrigated wheat in central Brazil can produce up to 130 sacks per hectare or approximately 120 bu/ac.

The planting dates for wheat in central Brazil can be important. If the wheat is planted in early April, it has an increased risk of fungal diseases and producers should be prepared to apply preventative application of appropriate fungicides. If the wheat planted at the end of May, there can be problems with heavy rainfall disrupting the harvest which can result in lower grain quality. Therefore, Embrapa recommends the wheat be planted between May 1st and May 20th.

Wheat in central Brazil is generally planted in rows that are 17 to 20 cm apart with a plant population of 300 to 380 seeds per square meter. Nitrogen can be applied at planting and top dressed later before heading. The amount of nitrogen will depend on the organic matter in the soil, the previous crop, and the expected yields.

Wheat grown in central Brazil offers producers a chance to rotate their mono-crop soybean production to a non-host crop that helps to reduce disease and pest pressures on their soybeans. The wheat grown in central Brazil is also the first wheat to be harvested in Brazil. This is advantageous because wheat stocks are generally very low in August and September when the wheat is harvested and the market is generally willing to pay a premium for high quality wheat during that period.