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June 12, 2019

Soybean-free Period in Mato Grosso starts June 15th

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

The annual 90-day soybean-free period will take effect later this week in the state of Mato Grosso and in other states of central Brazil. The soybean-free period in the state runs from June 15th to September 15th. During that period no live soybean plants are permitted in fields, along the sides of the fields, along roadways, or around storage or transportation facilities.

This soybean free program was started in 2006 as a way to break the disease cycle of soybean rust from one growing season to the next. The idea is that if live soybean plants are eliminated for a 90-day period, there will be fewer rust spores available to infect the next soybean crop when planting resumes in September. This soybean-free period has been adopted all across central Brazil and I think it has worked very well.

Enforcing the ban in Mato Grosso is the responsibility of the Plant and Animal Protection Bureau (Indea), which is part of the state Secretary of Agriculture. During the 2018/19 growing season, Indea registered 12,694 properties in the state that are responsible for 8.7 million hectares of soybean production. Starting on June 15th, their goal is to inspect 60% of those properties searching for live soybean plants.

If live soybean plants are found, the landowner will be given 10 days to eliminate the plants. If the soybean plants are not eliminated, the landowner will face a fine of approximately $1,075 plus approximately $70 for each hectare where the soybean have not been eliminated.

Farmers in the state may start planting their soybeans on September 16th and they must finish planting by December 31st, and a second crop of soybeans planted in the same field during the same growing season, known as the safrinha crop, is expressly prohibited. Farmers must then have their soybeans harvested by May 5th.

The prohibition on safrinha soybean production is what led to the tremendous increase in safrinha corn production in Brazil. Safrinha corn production went from a novelty crop two decades ago to now representing more than 70% of Brazil's total corn production. It is the safrinha corn production that goes primarily into the export market propelling Brazil to the second largest corn exporter in the world after the United States.

Some seed producers have been pushing back on the prohibition of safrinha soybean production arguing that higher quality seed could be produced if the soybeans are planted later so that they are maturing as the rainy season ends. The scientists and state officials have been steadfast in their opposition to any changes in the current regulations. They contend that a small benefit for some seed producers could result in a tremendous increase in disease control costs for the thousands of soybean producers in the state.