April 8, 2015

Farmers in Rio Grande do Sul starting to Plant Winter Small Grains

As farmers in Rio Grande do Sul approach the half way mark in their 2014/15 soybean harvest, they are now trying to decide what they should plant for their winter crop. In many areas of Brazil the main option for a second crop is safrinha corn, but a second crop of corn in Rio Grande do Sul is generally not feasible because of the colder climate. Fall-like temperatures have already started to appear in the state and it is not uncommon for frosts or even a little snow to fall in the state over the winter months.

The main option for a second crop in Rio Grande do Sul is to plant winter wheat. In 2014, farmers in the state increased their winter wheat acreage by 9.8% to 1.14 million hectares. Even though they increased their wheat acreage, the 2014 wheat production ended up being down 52% compared to the prior year due to adverse weather. As the 2014 wheat crop was approaching maturity, the state was pounded by extremely heavy rains which resulted in very poor quality grain. Much of the wheat ended up as animal feed and some fields were so bad that they were not even harvested.

The poor quality also resulted in low prices, which generally fell to below the minimum price guaranteed by the government. Farmers therefore were forced to sell their wheat during a series of auctions conducted by the government which subsidized the purchase of the wheat at the minimum price.

If they don't want to plant winter wheat, farmers in Rio Grande do Sul can opt for other small grains such as oats, barley, or canola. In 2014, farmers in the state planted 88,500 hectares of oats which resulted in 156,000 tons of production. Farmers also planted 63,000 hectares of barley which produced 113,000 tons and as far as canola is concerned, they planted only 39,000 hectares which produced 28,000 tons. The planting of the winter small grains generally start in April and ends in June.