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February 17, 2012

After Brief Respite, Drought Returning to Southern Brazil

After a brief period of improved rainfall in mid-January, southern Brazil has once again been plagued by dry weather for the last three weeks. The earlier dryness severely impacted the full-season corn crop and early-maturing soybeans in Parana, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul and now the renewed dryness is taking a toll on the later maturing soybeans as well as the early development of the safrinha corn crop.

Last year at this time, 80% of the safrinha corn had been planted in the municipality of Cascavel in western Parana, but this year only 40% of the safrinha corn has been planted due to dry conditions. Several weeks ago, farmers rushed to harvest their early-maturing soybeans and plant their safrinha corn to take advantage of the briefly improved soil moisture, but the return of dry weather has resulted in poor germination and slowed early development of the corn seedlings. Many farmers now are waiting for additional moisture before they risk planting their corn crop. Farmers in Parana are expected to plant a record safrinha corn crop of 1.89 million hectares and statewide, the safrinha corn crop is approximately 19% planted.

The problem is that the longer they have to wait to plant the corn, the greater the risk to the crop from potential dryness during pollination and grain filling as well as cold weather during June/July. In June of 2011, a killing frost severely impacted the safrinha corn crop in western Parana.

The situation for the soybean crop in Rio Grande do Sul has deteriorated over the last several weeks as hot and dry weather continues to take a toll on the crop. The adverse conditions could not have come at a worst time as the crop which is in the midst of flowering and filling pods.

Soybean losses across Rio Grande do Sul are currently being estimated in the range of 40% to 50% and losses will continue to mount as the dry weather persists. In the municipality of Ijui, which is located in north-central part of the state, soybean losses are already estimated at 50% and they could go as high as 70% in areas where the earlier rains were missed.

A few isolated fields of early-maturing soybeans in Rio Grande do Sul have been harvested and farmers are reporting that the seeds are small in size and greenish in color. The green color is an indication that the soybean plant died prematurely before the seed had adequate time to fully mature.