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January 13, 2015

2014/15 Brazil Soybean Planting Extended over a Four Month Period

As soybean production in Brazil continues to move north and east, the soybean planting season in Brazil also continues to lengthen. This year is a good example of just how spread out the soybean planting can be in Brazil. While the early soybean harvest is underway in parts of Mato Grosso and Parana, farmers in the states of Piaui and Maranhao in northeastern Brazil still have approximately 20% of their soybeans left to plant.

Dry weather in northeastern Brazil delayed the start of soybean planting and farmers in the region now hope to finish their soybean planting over the next few days. Therefore, the 2014/15 soybean planting in Brazil was spread out over a four month period from mid-September to mid-January.

The summer rainy season generally starts later in northeastern Brazil and it ends earlier as well resulting in a shorter growing season than in central Brazil. This region of northeastern Brazil has been an area of agricultural expansion in recent years especially in southern parts of the states of Piaui and Maranhao. The vegetation in this area is generally a savanna-like grassland interspersed with small shrubs. The vegetation is easily cleared and the native fertility of the soil is low, but with adequate fertilization, it is an acceptable area to grow soybeans.

The disadvantage of the region is the lack of regularity of the summer rains. Rainfall may be adequate one year and less than adequate the next. Further east of this region the climate is semi-arid characterized by frequent and prolonged droughts. Good crop yields would be insured in the region if irrigation is available.

Despite the uncertainty concerning the weather, the region does offer advantages as well. One of the biggest advantages is the availability of low cost land in the region. Another advantage for farmers growing soybeans is its proximity to some of Brazil's northern ports. A railroad is already operational in the region and the primary product moved by rail is iron ore from the huge mining operation in the Carajas Mountains. In recent years this railroad has also started to transport soybeans and corn to export markets.

When international soybean prices were at record high levels in recent years, farmers were eagerly purchasing land in the region to expand their soybean production. Since soybean prices have declined, the expansion of soybeans has slowed as well, but the region is still expected to be one of the main areas of agricultural expansion in Brazil.