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April 30, 2014

Developing El Nino could Benefit Brazil's Corn and Soybean Crops

The majority of weather forecasters are now predicting that an El Nino will develop in the Pacific Ocean over the next few months. If that does in fact happen, the warmer than normal temperatures in the eastern Pacific could impact the winter wheat crop in Brazil and the start of the 2014/15 summer crops that will begin being planted in August and September.

An El Nino generally results in above normal rainfall with good distribution in southern Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. The above normal rainfall could reduce the chances of dry weather similar to what happened this past December and January that reduced soybean production in southern Brazil by 2 million tons.

In addition to above normal rainfall, El Nino is also expected to result in higher than normal temperatures. Therefore, the combination of hot and rainy weather is considered ideal for the soybean crop in Brazil. Brazilian grain yields are generally better when the rainfall is a little above average. During recent El Nino episodes, the soybean yields in the states of Mato Grosso and Parana have been above 3,000 kg/ha (43.5 bu/ac).

An El Nino is not completely positive for all farmers in Brazil. For the winter wheat crop, an El Nino could increase the chances of rainfall during harvesting resulting in potentially lower yields and poorer quality wheat. The other potential negative effect from an El Nino is the fact that it can lead to dryer than normal summer weather in northeastern Brazil especially in western Bahia. In normal years, the rainfall in northeastern Brazil is usually just enough for the summer crops. Therefore, even a slight decrease in precipitation could lead to moisture deficits and lower yields.

In general though, the benefits in southern Brazil from an El Nino would outweigh the potential negative impact in northeastern Brazil.