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July 21, 2017

Frost and Wet Conditions Impacting South American Wheat Crop

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

It is the peak of the winter season in southern South America and adverse weather is impacting the winter crops in both southern Brazil and Argentina.

The coldest temperatures of the year have been reported all across southern Brazil this week with many locations reporting temperatures below freezing. The grain crop most impacted by the cold temperatures was the winter wheat.

The cold temperatures are a particular concern in the state of Parana, which is the largest wheat producing state in Brazil. According to the Department of Rural Economics (Deral), approximately half the winter wheat was in a susceptible developmental stage for frost damage this week. The temperatures were the coldest in the southern part of the state and the earliest planted wheat in the state was in the heading stage this week.

The Organization of Cooperatives in Parana (Ocepar) estimates that 30% of the wheat in Parana was in a sensitive developmental stage when the cold weather hit this week. Technicians from Ocepar estimate that in a worst case scenario, the loses due to the frost could be as high as 1 million tons. The extent of the losses will not be known until sometime next week. They had previously estimated the state's wheat production would be slightly more than 3 million tons, or more than half of the country's total wheat production.

The state had been dry for 30 days prior to the cold temperatures, so some of the wheat had already been under stress before the cold temperatures arrived. Unfortunately, the cold air was not accompanied by rainfall, so the state generally remained dry.

The weather in Argentina has also been adverse in recent weeks. In Argentina, there are an estimated 6 million hectares of agricultural land that is either under water or very saturated. According to the Confederation of Rural Argentines (CRA), there are approximately 2 million hectares of farmland underwater in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Cordoba, La Pampa, and Santa Fe and another 4 million hectares that are extremely saturated. The hardest hit areas appear to be western Buenos Aires and eastern La Pampa. This area was also the location of several previous episodes of flooding over the past nine months.

Some of the saturated areas are pastures, but most of the areas are cropland. It is estimated that the saturated areas represent approximately 16% of the possible crop acreage in Argentina for the 2017/18 growing season. According to the consulting firm Agritrend, Argentine farmers will plant 37.3 million hectares of summer crops in 2017/18, which is an increase of 1.2 million hectares compared to last year.

The wet conditions have made it difficult to establish the winter wheat crop in the region. The Buenos Aires Grain Exchange reported that the wheat crop is 82.5% planted and the crop is rated 3% excellent, 16% very good, 51% good, 26% average, and 4% fair. In addition to the winter wheat, farmers are also concerned about planting their next summer crops. Corn planting in the region would normally start in about a month and a half at the end of August or early September.