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February 23, 2011

Planting of Safrinha Corn in Brazil Delayed by Wet Conditions

Delayed soybean harvesting and heavy rains are resulting in very slow progress in planting the safrinha corn crop in Mato Grosso. The Mato Grosso Institute of Agricultural Economics (Imea) is reporting that 36% of the intended safrinha corn acreage has been planted, which is half of the 70% that was planted last year at this time. Imea reports that approximately 636,000 hectares of safrinha corn have been planted, which is half last year's pace.

It was virtually assured that the safrinha corn planting would get off to a delayed start once it was evident that the soybean planting last fall would be delayed by dry weather. The situation has gotten even more delayed since heavy rains and wet conditions have kept many combines out of the mature soybean fields.

As a result of the delayed planting, Imea is now estimating that the safrinha corn acreage in the state will be 1.81 million hectares, which is 7% less than the 1.94 million hectares planted in 2010. If planting continues to be delayed by wet conditions, the corn acreage could fall even further.

The ideal planting window for safrinha corn in Mato Grosso generally closes at the end of February, but the wet conditions are going to force farmers to plant their second crop of corn later than what is recommended. If safrinha corn is planted during the month of March, it runs a significant risk of running out of soil moisture before the crop has completed the grain filling process.

That is what happened in 2010 when the last rainfall in Mato Grosso was recorded during the first week of April. It then stayed dry for the next six months until the rains returned in early October. As a result, the safrinha corn yield in the state turned out to be disappointing. If the end of the rainy season is delayed until later in May or June, then the late planted safrinha corn may have time for adequate yields, but if the rainy season ends in late April or early May, there could be significant yields reductions as a result.

Approximately 40% of Brazil's total corn crop is now grown as a double crop planted after soybeans are harvested. The two principal states for safrinha corn production in Brazil are Mato Grosso and Parana.