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August 2, 2018

Crops in Santa Cruz region of Bolivia suffering from Severe Drought

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

The Santa Cruz region of eastern Bolivia is the primary grain and food producing region of the country responsible for 70% of the food production in Bolivia. This lower elevation region of Bolivia borders on the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso and the farmers in the region produce many of the same crops that are produced in Mato Grosso.

The cropping cycle in Santa Cruz consists of summer crops planted in December and "winter" crops planted in early May. Winter is not the correct term to use to describe this season because the weather during the "winter" is warm and rainy. A better way to describe the crop cycle would be the summer crops followed by the second crops.

The summer crop is dominated by soybeans which are generally planted in December and they are the only GMO crop allowed to be planted in Bolivia. The second crop consists of corn, sorghum, sunflowers, and wheat and they function as rotations for soybeans. All the second crops are conventional varieties (non-GMO).

Unfortunately, the Santa Cruz region of eastern Bolivia is in the midst of one of the worst droughts in recent years. After touring the region in recent days, representatives from the Bolivian Export Institute (IBCE) reported to the press that the nearly nonexistent rainfall since the second crops were planted has severely impacted the production of corn, sunflowers, sorghum, and wheat.

Agronomists from eastern Santa Cruz reported that since planting started in early May, the region has received only 47 mm of rainfall (1.8 inches) compared to the long term average of up to 350 mm (14 inches). The lack of adequate moisture resulted in a very poor start to the growing season and it has gotten worse since then.

Wheat appears to be the crop impacted the most this far. Normal wheat yields in the region are generally in the range of 2,500 kg/ha (37 bu/ac), but the wheat yields this year are expected to be in the range of 1,000 kg/ha (15 bu/ac).