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December 4, 2015

Dry Weather in Brazil Forcing Farmers to make Difficult Decisions

The early growing season weather across much of central Brazil has been very irregular. Instead of widespread general rains, which are typical at this time of the year, the region has experienced widely scattered and lighter than normal showers. The result has been delays in getting the soybeans planted and poor germinating and low plant populations due to the hot and dry conditions.

This is forcing some farmers in the region to make difficult decisions - stay with the current soybean plant populations that they have and hope for improved weather going forward, replant the worst areas and incur additional costs and the potential for lower soybean yields, or abandon the worst areas of soybeans and plant a different crop such as cotton.

In the municipality of Ipiranga do Norte, which is located in northern Mato Grosso, many farmers are reporting problems with their soybean crop caused by the dry conditions and many farmers are considering replanting some of their soybeans. In the worst cases, some of the intended soybeans were not even planted, but most of the concern is over poor germination and low plant populations. The Mato Grosso Institute of Agricultural Economics (Imea) is expected to release a report next week estimating how much of the state's soybean crop will be replanted.

The ideal time to plant soybeans in the region is from October 1st to November 10th, so any soybeans replanted now would encounter increased insect and disease pressure and the potential for higher chemical costs and lower yields.

Instead of replanting their soybeans with dubious yield prospects, some farmers are opting to plant cotton instead. Farmers in the state are allowed to start planting full-season cotton on December 1st and switching some of their intended soybean acreage to cotton has happened before when dry weather delayed the soybean planting.

Approximately three-quarters of the cotton in the state is planted as a second crop following soybeans and the double crop cotton is generally planted during the month of January, so it not unusual to plant cotton during December. What is unusual this growing season is the irregular start to the summer rainy season. Meteorologists are blaming it on the strong El Nino, which they feel will cause further disruptions in Brazil's weather patterns.