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December 30, 2014

Soybeans Increase their Dominance of First Crop Planting in Brazil

One of the major trends that has developed in Brazilian agriculture in recent years has been the near complete dominance of soybeans planted as the first crop in Brazil. The amount of corn planted as the first crop continues to decline and the amount of soybeans planted as the first crop continues to increase.

In the state of Mato Grosso for example, farmers are expected to plant 9.02 million hectares of first crop soybeans compared to only 68,000 hectares of first crop corn. In other word, for every hectare of first crop corn in the state, there are 132 hectares of first crop soybeans. In Mato Grosso 98% of the corn is now safrinha corn planted after the soybeans are harvested.

In the state of Parana the trend has been similar, but not quite as dramatic. Farmers in Parana will dedicate 87% of their row crop acreage to soybeans (5.06 million hectares) and only 535,900 hectares will be planted to full-season corn. In other words, there are 9.4 times more hectares of soybeans than full-season corn in the state.

Brazilian farmers have radically altered their crop rotations with a monocrop of soybeans planted as the first crop and a monocrop of corn planted as the second crop. This new cropping pattern has both positives and negatives. On the positive side, the use of early maturing soybeans now allows farmers to plant two crops per year instead of one. The down side of this new pattern is that insects and diseases are becoming harder and more expensive to control with monocrop soybean production.

Brazilian scientists have been warning farmers that planting a first crop of soybeans and a second crop of corn during the same growing season is not the equivalent of a traditional crop rotation where crops are rotated every other year. In Brazil today, it is basically a monocrop of soybeans every summer with no breaks. This has resulted in increased insect and disease pressures and scientists expect it to get worse.

Some farmers in Brazil have been planting two crops of soybeans back-to-back during the same growing season making the situation even worst. In Mato Grosso last year, the safrinha soybean yields varied from less than ten bushels per acre to the upper twenties and many farmers reported that they lost money on their safrinha soybeans due to the high cost of controlling insects and diseases. The practice of planting a second crop of soybeans is now being prohibited in the state of Mato Grosso, but it is still allowed in the state of Parana.

The Secretary of Agriculture in the state of Parana is estimating that farmers will plant 110,690 hectares of safrinha soybeans in 2014/15 or 1% more than last growing season. The yield of the safrinha soybeans is estimated to average 1,972 kg/ha or 28.5 bu/ac.