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December 5, 2012

Two Thirds of Mato Grosso's Cotton will be Safrinha Production

Farmers in Mato Grosso continue to take advantage of the long growing season to planting more second crops after the harvest of their first crop of soybeans. In addition to a second crop of corn (safrinha corn), they are now planting more of a second crop of cotton as well (safrinha cotton). According to the Mato Grosso Institute of Agricultural Economics (Imea) and the Cotton Producers of Mato Grosso (Ampa), 67% of the estimated 498,000 hectares of cotton planted in the state will be planted after the first crop of soybeans are harvested. Just a few years ago, virtually all the cotton planted in the state was full-season cotton and very little of the crop was planted after soybeans.

What has led to the increased amount of safrinha cotton has been the introduction of very early maturing soybeans as well as early maturing cotton. The combination of these two new technologies has allowed the farmers to produce two crops per year in the same field. The early maturing soybeans are ready to harvest in 90-95 days. If the soybeans are planted during the second half of September, then they will be ready to harvest by mid-January allowing enough time to plant safrinha cotton which needs to be planted by the end of January. The new cotton varieties also mature quickly in 160 days compared to the 210 days for traditional cotton.

Cotton prices are very lackluster and as a result, the total planted cotton acreage in the state is expected to decline 31% in 2012/13 to 498,000 hectares compared to the 722,500 hectares planted in 2011/12. The safrinha cotton generally does not yield as well as full-season cotton, therefore the yields in 2012/13 are also expected to decline 10% going from 3,800 kg/ha last growing season to 3,400 kg/ha. The first and second cotton crops combined are expected to produce 676,000 tons which would be a reduction of 38% compared to the 1.08 million tons produced in 2011/12.

A cotton-free period was instituted in Mato Grosso several years ago in an attempt to break the cycle of cotton pests. During the cotton-free period, farmers are not allowed to plant any commercial cotton and they must destroy any volunteer cotton plants growing on their property. If a farmer fails to destroy volunteer cotton found on his land they can be fined R$ 1,388 (US$ 667) plus R$ 92 (US$ 44) for each hectare of illegal cotton. The cotton-free period in Mato Grosso ended on December 1st, so farmers can now start planting their full-season cotton.