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July 29, 2014

Heavy Rains Surprise Farmers in Mato Grosso and Central Brazil

In the midst of what is traditionally the driest time of the year, residents in Mato Grosso and central Brazil have been taken by surprise by numerous days of rainfall. A strong cold front has been positioned over the area since last Wednesday resulting in nearly daily rainfall. The headline in the Cuiaba newspaper last Friday proclaimed "It Hasn't Rained Like This in 86 Years."

In the city of Cuiaba, which is the capital of Mato Grosso, the record rainfall for the month of July is 54 mm (2.1 inches) set in 1928. Since last Wednesday it has already rained 50 mm (2 inches). More typical was July of 2013 when it rained only 8.4 mm (0.3 inches). Prior to the current rains, the last rain in the city was on June 2nd when it rained 9.2 mm (0.3 inches). Strong winds and localized flooding have accompanied the storms with damage reported all across southern Mato Grosso.

Cuiaba is located in southern Mato Grosso and that is where most of the rainfall has occurred. The main soybean and corn producing region of the state is in central Mato Grosso and the rainfall totals have been less in that region, but still they have received rain during a time of the year when it is normally extremely dry. The rains have occurred all across central Brazil in the states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goias, and Minas Gerais.

Even though many people refer to this time of the year as "winter", it is not the type of weather we think of as being winter. Generally the weather during July and August in Mato Grosso ("winter") is bright and sunny without a cloud in the sky and temperatures in the 80's and 90's. By the time you get to September temperatures start to climb and they can easily top 100 degrees on a daily basis. The temperatures only start to fall when the rainy season starts in late September or October.

On September 21st the sun is directly above the Equator and if there is a lack of cloud cover, the sun can be very intense all across central Brazil, thus the elevated temperatures.

Wet weather slows safrinha corn harvest - The wet weather has slowed the harvesting of the safrinha corn crop in Mato Grosso which is approximately 50% harvested. The current wet weather will not persist for an extended period of time and once the front dissipates, warmer and dryer conditions will return to the region. I do not anticipate that the wet weather will result in any significant damage to the safrinha corn crop other than some harvest delays.

Cotton farmers worried about wet weather - Cotton farmers in Mato Grosso are in the early stages of harvest and the farmers are worried that several days of wind and rain when the cotton is ready for harvest can result in yield losses. The wind and rain can cause the cotton to drop in the ground resulting in the losses. Cotton producers in the southern U.S. dread the possibility of a hurricane moving into the region when the cotton is ready for harvest for the very same reason.

Approximately 70% of the cotton produced in Mato Grosso is grown as a second crop following soybeans. The second crop of cotton is planted in January and harvest in July and August. Prospects for the 2013/14 crop in Mato Grosso were very high due to good weather earlier in the growing season and late rains in May and June. There have not been any official estimates released concerning potential damage caused by the wet weather. The Brazilian Minister of Agriculture estimates that Brazil's cotton crop will increase 30% compared to last year to 1.7 million tons.

Wet weather good for pastures - Certainly these rains are very beneficial for cattle ranchers in the region. The last rain was about a month and a half ago and the pastures were getting very dry. There will now be some regrowth of the grass which is very unusual for this time of the year. Grass fed cattle in Mato Grosso put on weight during the rainy season, but then they lose weight during the dry season due to a lack of forage.

As a result, it then takes half of the subsequent rainy season to gain back the weight lost during the dry season. Weight gain for grass-fed cows in central Brazil is an up-and-down process. That is why it takes about twice as long to raise a grass-fed cow to market weight compared to a cow in a feedlot.