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January 31, 2014

Brazil Soy Farmers Generally Successful Controlling Insects

As soybean farmers start to harvest their 2013/14 crop in Mato Grosso it appears their efforts to control various insects and diseases have paid off. Early yield reports indicate that the statewide average soybean yield might surpass the historic average yield of 3,180 kg/ha (46 bu/ac). The yields of the early maturing soybeans have been especially good considering the fact that early maturing soybeans are generally lower yielding.

Soybean farmers had a lot to worry about going into this growing season including the corn earworm, the soybean looper, white flies, and soybean rust. The corn earworm generated most of the headlines since it had caused significant damage to the crops in western Bahia the year before and this was the first year it had been found in central Brazil. As it turned out, the soybean looper caterpillar probably ended up being a greater threat than the corn earworm.

Their successful control efforts have not come cheap and most Brazilian farmers have spent more on insecticides than ever before. Many farmers report that they have doubled their insecticide applications this growing season to as many as six applications. Sales of insecticides and fungicides in Brazil are expected to increase 13% during the 2013/14 growing season to US$ 11 billion. The increase is attributed to increased soybean acreage, increased insect pressures, higher prices, and a weaker Brazilian currency.

Soybean rust, which is considered the major soybean disease in Brazil, has not been a major factor this year in Mato Grosso with 24 confirmed cases being reported as of the end of January. Nationwide, there have been 244 confirmed cases of the disease with 35% of the cases (87) being reported in the state of Goias alone.

The soybeans in Mato Grosso have benefited from a generally good growing season. In the municipality of Sorriso, which is located in central Mato Grosso and is the largest soybean producing municipality in Brazil, the rainfall total since the start of the growing season in September has been 1,400 mm (56 inches) compared to the average of 1,100 mm (44 inches). This growing season has had the most rainfall in the last eleven years. Approximately 10% of the soybeans have been harvested in the municipality and the average yield thus far has been 60 sacks per hectare (3,600 kg/ha or 52 bu/ac).

The majority of the soybeans in the municipality will be ready for harvest during the second half of February and the one thing farmers are still concerned about is the possibility of rainfall delaying the soybean harvest. Any harvest delays would also delay the planting of the safrinha corn crop as well and the municipality of Sorriso has the largest safrinha corn acreage in Brazil. The planting window for safrinha corn generally closes at the end of February, but farmers would like to plant their corn as early as possible.

The corn earworm has spread throughout all the soybean producing regions of Brazil including the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul where it has been confirmed in 33 municipalities. The soybeans in the state are planted later than in Mato Grosso and the crop is just now starting to fill pods. In the north-central part of the state, the extension service estimates that 60% of the soybeans are filling pods and 40% flowering so farmers in the state still need to be attentive to controlling the insect.