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January 13, 2011

Dryness in Rio Grande do Sul Remains Area of Concern in Brazil

In southern Rio Grande do Sul, farmers and ranchers continue to be concerned about the ongoing drought in the region. In the northern half of the state, the rainfall has been adequate thus far during the growing season, but in the southern half of the state, the rainfall amounts have been only a fraction of normal. Most of the crop production in the state is in the northern half, but row crop production has been increasing in the southern half of the state in recent years.

Numerous municipalities in southern Rio Grande do Sul have already declared a state of emergency and more are expected to be added to the list if additional rainfall does not occur soon. In the hardest hit municipalities, state agencies have already started to haul water and basic food stuffs to rural families.

Rio Grande do Sul is the third leading soybean producing state in Brazil responsible for planting 16.7% of Brazil's soybean acreage. Approximately 10% of the states soybean crop is planted in the southern part of the state where it is the driest. In the northern half of the state, the soybeans are generally rated as being in good condition. In the southern half of the state the soybeans are generally rated as poor to very poor. Some of the intended soybeans were not planted due to the dry conditions and some of the crop that was planted did not germinate.

The vast majority of the corn in the state is also planted in the northern half of the state and the crop is generally rated in good condition. The corn in the southern part of the state is suffering the same fate as the soybeans, not all the intended corn was planted and the crop that got planted is in poor to very poor condition.

Most of the agricultural activity in southern Rio Grande do Sul revolves around cattle ranching and the pastures in the southern part of the state have been significantly impacted by the dry weather. Additionally, ranchers and dairy farmers in the state plant summer forages such as sorghum, oats, millet, and sudan grass to supplant their forage needs, but the dry weather has parlayed planting activity adding to their concern.

It's not all bad news. One segment of agriculture in the state is actually being helped by the dry weather and that is wine grapes. The dry weather tends to concentrate the sugars in the grapes and vintners are expecting one of the best wine crops in the last ten years. The dry weather also reduces the disease and pest pressures on the grapes.