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July 21, 2011

Agronomist Emphasize Correct Time to Plant Safrinha Corn

The frost/freezes that impacted the safrinha corn crop in Mato Grosso do Sul at the end of June is another reminder of the perils of planting a crop outside of the recommended period. Agronomist in the state estimate that up to 30% of the safrinha corn production in the state was lost due to the cold weather and nearly all the losses were in the latest planted fields. While the state is a small producer of safrinha corn compared to the states of Mato Grosso and Parana, the reduced productivity still represents a loss of 76 thousand tons of production.

Many farmers in the state planted their corn much later than normal due to heavy rains in March which delayed the soybean harvest. It is estimated that at least 50% of the safrinha corn in the state had been planted after the planting window had closed in late February. If farmers plant their crops outside of the official planting window, they cannot qualify for crop insurance. At the time of planting, corn prices were strong enough that many farmers decided to risk planting the crop hoping that the weather would cooperate. Unfortunately, that was not the case this year when a week of extremely cold temperatures at the end of June disseminated the immature corn.

For the corn planted at the correct time (mid-February), the cold weather came after the crop had matured past the stage at which it is sensitive to cold weather. Farmers have now started to harvest the early planted corn and yield results are satisfactory in the range of 90 sacks per hectare or about 83 bushels per acre. The quality of the grain is also being reported as normal.

The later planted corn is still filling grain and the harvest will not start for several more weeks. The yields of the later planted corn are expected to be very low and the quality of the grain is expected to be poor as well.

In order to avoid this problem in the future, farmers that want to plant a second crop of corn are being encouraged to plant early or semi-early maturing soybeans that mature in 90-100 days. If these soybeans are planted early in October, they can be harvested at the end of January or early February allowing enough time to plant a second crop of corn in a timely manner.