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February 20, 2012

Crop Losses Continue to Mount in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

The state of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil has been the state hardest hit by the dry weather this growing season. Losses for the corn crop are already locked in place and now farmers are very concerned about their developing soybean crop as well. Officials from the state extension service, Emater, recently completed a survey of the corn and soybean crops in the 71 municipalities located near the city of Passo Fundo in the Planalto Medio region of the state.

For the corn crop, many of the fields registering losses of 70% or more, which is not a surprise given the fact that the hot and dry conditions eclipsed the entire pollination and grain filling periods. These losses are now being confirmed as farmers start to harvest their corn crop. Approximately 38% of the corn in the state has been harvested and 20% is mature and waiting to be harvested. Conab is estimating that the state will produce only 3.19 million tons of corn, which is a decline of 44.8% compared to last year.

Farmers had been hoping for better results from their soybean crop, but those hopes are fading as well. When soybeans are setting pods and filling pods the crop needs approximately 5 mm of water per day or 0.2 inches per day. Unfortunately, the soybean fields in the region have accumulated a rainfall deficit of 200 mm (8 inches) over the last three months while at the same time the temperatures have been very hot. As a result, soybean yields in the region have already dropped and they could decline more if more rain is not forthcoming quickly.

Officials from Emater had anticipated at the start of the growing season that the regional soybean yield would be 45 sacks per hectare (2,700 kg/ha or 39 bu/ac), which is the three year average for the region. After a recent evaluation, that estimate has now been lowered 19% to 2,210 kg/ha or 32 bu/ac and it could decline even further. Rio Grande do Sul is the third leading soybean producing state in Brazil responsible for about 15% of Brazil's total production.