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February 27, 2014

High Humidity Causes Problems for Brazilian Soybean Harvest

In the municipality of Nova Mutum in central Mato Grosso some farmers are reporting loses as high as 30% in their soybean fields due to the heavy rains that have delayed the soybean harvest and resulted in lower seed quality. In addition to the lost production, producers are facing hefty discounts at the grain elevators when they sell their high moisture grain.

The frequent rains are forcing farmers to harvest their soybeans at moistures as high as 20% to 25% to avoid even further loses. The maximum moisture allowed by the grain elevators without charging a discount is 14% grain moisture. The grain companies are charging the farmers drying costs as well as paying them less for their grain because a ton of soybeans at 25% moisture contains 11% more water than a ton of soybeans at 14% moisture.

The soybean harvest in Mato Grosso is approximately 50% complete and farmers are now harvesting their later maturing soybeans. Complicating the problem even more is the fact that 45% of the soybeans in the state were planted in a 15 day window during the second half of October. All of these soybeans are ready to be harvested during late February or early March just as the heavy rains have hit the state.

In the worst case scenarios the soybeans are sprouting in the pods and when that happens, farmers are forced to abandon the crop. Each time the soybean pods go through a wet and dry cycle there is a greater opportunity for various fungal organisms to enter the pods and colonize the seeds resulting in light weight and molds soybeans. Traveling through the state over the last few days we have seen many soybean fields that have started to turn a blackish color indicating that the plants have long passed the optimum time for harvesting.

Whenever a few hours of sunshine allow the combines back into the fields, everybody rushes out to harvest as much as possible resulting in a crush of trucks on the highways and long lines at the grain elevators.

The Association of Soybean and Corn Producers in Mato Grosso (Aprosoja) is already discussing with state officials ways to minimize the financial damage caused by the wet weather. In addition to lost production, the heavy rains have washed out rural roads and swept away many rural bridges making transporting the crop even more difficult than normal. The mayor of the city of Novo Mutum declared a state of emergency in the city and the surrounding municipality this past Monday in response to the flooding.

Mato Grosso is basically the only state in Brazil that has experienced harvesting delays due to heavy rains and the central and northern part of the state has been hit the hardest. The rains have not been as heavy in the southern and eastern parts of the state, but the forecast for next week is for more rain in those regions as well.

Imea reported that 900,000 hectares were harvested last week (11% of the total soybean acreage in the state) as compared to 1.2 million the week before. The metrological agency Somar is forecasting that heavy rains will continue falling in the state through the first week of March.