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December 21, 2011

Rio Grande do Sul Remains Driest State in Brazil

The state continues to experience dryer than normal conditions with only light and scattered showers along the coast over the weekend. There are no soybeans grown along the coast, so the soybeans in the state did not receive any relief from the dry conditions over the weekend. The forecast is calling for elevated temperatures this week and some shower activity later in the week, but the forecasted amounts appear to be only enough for some temporarily relief. Thus far it's been the corn crop in the state that has been impacted the most from the dry conditions.

Corn - Dry weather concerns continue to mount in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, which is the driest of any state in Brazil. After a relatively good start to the growing season, November and early December rainfall has been well below normal levels. The immediate concern in the state is the early planted full-season corn crop which is currently pollinating or in pre-pollination. Farmers in the state plant about 14% of the full-season corn in Brazil and the state usually produces about 10% of Brazil's total corn crop. The state plants about 17% of Brazil's soybean acreage and it produces about 15% of Brazil's total soybean crop.

According to Emater, which is agricultural extension service in the state, 55% of the corn crop in Rio Grande do Sul is still germinating or in vegetative development, 21% is pollinating, and 22% is in early grain filling. The concern of course is for the corn that is pollinating or trying to fill grain under dry conditions (approximately 45% of the crop). By the end of December, Emater estimates that approximately 55% of the corn crop will be pollinating or beyond.

In some of the driest areas, farmers were unable to finish planting all their intended corn acres due to dry conditions. In those cases, there is a high probability that many of the unplanted corn acres will be eventually planted to soybeans, which can be planted in the state until the middle of January. There are also reports that some of the most impacted corn is being torn up and the farmers intend to replace the corn with soybeans.

There is certain to be some yield losses especially with the early pollinating corn, but the extent of the loss is not yet clear. A conservative estimate at this point might be that the state's corn crop could be down by as much as 15% compared to preseason estimates, which would be a loss of approximately 1.0 million tons.

Soybeans - SThe effect of the dry weather on the soybean crop has generally been in the form of delayed planting and irregular germination and stand establishment. Emater estimates that 92% of the soybean crop has been planted and that the crop is still in vegetative development. Adverse conditions early in the life cycle of soybeans can be compensated for with improved conditions later in the growing season, so it is too early to say that the soybean crop in the state will be permanently impacted by the current dry conditions.

The majority of the soybean crop in the state will be in mid pod-fill during the month of February. In order for significant yield losses to occur in the state, the hot and dry conditions would need to persist for several more weeks. Conversely, if the soil moisture in the state improves over the next few weeks, it is possible that the soybean acreage in the state might actually increase above earlier expectations due to unplanted corn acres being replaced with soybeans and some existing corn fields being torn up and replaced with soybeans.