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January 23, 2015

Forecast Brings Hope of Rain for Central and Eastern Brazil

Farmers in central and eastern Brazil are worried about their potential soybean yields after weeks of dryer than normal weather. For most of the month of January, a high pressure system located over eastern Brazil has been blocking the advance of frontal systems moving northward from southern Brazil. Meteorologists are now forecasting a breakdown of the high pressure which should allow for more rainfall to return to the region over the next week.

In the state of Mato Grosso, the rains are still localized and irregular, but the forecast is for more normal rainfall starting next week. The soybeans in the state are 4% harvested compared to 6% last year and yields are being reported in the range of 18 to 65 sacks per hectare (1,080 to 3,900 kg/ha or 15 to 56 bu/ac). The rains are expected to be much more normal starting the first week of February. The forecasted return of the rains would be too late to help the early maturing soybeans that are already being harvested, but they could still help the medium and later maturing soybeans that are still filling pods.

The state of Goias in central Brazil is one of the driest regions of the country. Some soybean fields in southwestern Goias have been 30 days without rain while other fields have only received isolated showers during the period. Soybean yields in the region are expected to be down 15% to 30% depending on when the rain returns. Losses could be as high as 50% in fields where the soils are sandier and have a lower water holding capacity. The lack of rainfall has also resulted in temperatures hotter than normal for most of the month.

Only a few percent of the soybeans in Goias have been harvested and the harvest pace will accelerate in early February. The dry soils could also impact the safrinha corn that will be planted immediately after the soybeans are harvested. The safrinha corn acreage could end up being less than expected if the soil moisture is not recharged by the time the corn needs to be planted.

Northeastern Brazil, including western Bahia and southern Maranhao and Piaui, have also been dryer than normal during January. Within the last 48 hours some of the strongest storms of the month traversed the region. The city of Luis Eduardo Magalhaes in western Bahia received 15 mm of rainfall (0.6 inches) on Wednesday, which was the heaviest rain since December 21st. The normal January rainfall for the city is 200 mm (8 inches).

In the city of Balsas in the state of Maranhao, the rain was a little heavier at 30 mm (1.2 inches), but that represents only 30% of the normal rainfall for the first three weeks of January. The soybeans in the region are generally planted later than in other regions of Brazil and the crop is now starting to flower. The forecast for northeastern Brazil is calling for more normal rainfall starting next week and into early February.