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January 13, 2015

Mato Grosso Lengthens Soybean-Free Period to 122 Days

Starting with this 2014/15 growing season in the state of Mato Grosso, the soybean-free period will start on June 1st and end on September 30th. The previous 90-day soybean-free period (June 15th to September 15th), which had been in effect since the mid-2000s will now be replaced with a 122-day soybean-free period. These final rules are the result of a compromise between Brazilian scientists and farmers.

The scientists had wanted an even longer period of 137 days (May 1st to September 15th). The longer period was proposed by the scientists to essentially eliminate the possibility of safrinha soybean production. Farmers argued that starting it on May 1st would prevent farmers from growing a second crop of seed-soybeans if they wished. So it appears that both sides compromised.

The new rules don't prohibit safrinha soybean production, they just make it more difficult. It would still be possible to squeeze in two crops of soybeans during a single growing season, but it would be very tight. If a farmer planted a 95-day maturity soybean variety during the first week of October, then those soybeans might be harvested during the second week of January. If he turned right around and planted a second crop of soybeans during the third week of January, then those soybeans might be harvested in early May, thus avoiding paying a fine for having live soybeans on your property after June 1st.

So it's possible there still might be some safrinha soybeans grown in Mato Grosso, but the acreage will be limited. During the 2013/14 growing season there was record large acreage of safrinha soybeans in Mato Grosso totaling over 100,000 hectares. The amount of safrinha soybeans that will be planted in Mato Grosso over the next two months is yet to be determined, but I would estimate that it will be less than last year due to the delayed harvest of the first soybean crop.

Scientists would have preferred to eliminate safrinha soybean production all together in order to better control diseases such as soybean rust as well as soil pests like nematodes and various leaf-eating insects, but they are satisfied with the longer soybean-free period. By lengthening the period when live soybean plants are prohibited from 90 days to 122 days, scientists feel this will help to limit the number of pests surviving from one growing season to the next.

Mato Grosso is the only state in Brazil that has instituted new rules concerning the soybean-free period, but officials in other states are monitoring the situation and I would not be surprised if they eventually take action in their own states to extend the length of the soybean-free period.

The two week delay for the start of soybean planting in the state probably will not impact the potential for safrinha corn production because the ideal planting window for safrinha corn does not close until about February 20th. The delay might impact farmers who plant safrinha cotton because the ideal planting window for safrinha cotton in the state generally closes at the end of January. Currently, about three quarters of the cotton grown in Mato Grosso is planted as a second crop following soybeans.

Delayed soybean planting could aid U.S. exporters- These new rules could have a potential impact on soybean exports from the United States. Starting with the 2015/16 growing season, the early harvest of soybeans in Mato Grosso will potentially start two weeks later then what currently occurs. That could also push back the start of the soybean export season from Brazil as well because many of the first shipments of soybeans to the Brazilian ports originate in Mato Grosso. Therefore, U.S. soybean exporters may end up with several more weeks of potential soybean exports due to this change in Mato Grosso.