Back
June 13, 2012

Winter Wheat Planting in Southern Brazil Slowed by Dry Soils

Farmers in Rio Grande do Sul continue to deal with the impact of dry weather in the state. After a severe drought significantly reduced the 2011/12 corn and soybean crops, the dry weather is now delaying the planting of the winter crops such as wheat, barley, and canola. According to Emater/RS (the extension service in the state), only 12% of the anticipated winter wheat acreage been planted compared to 25% last year at this time. The major concern is in the northern half of the state where the majority of the wheat is grown. Germination of the wheat that has already been planted is reported to be spotty due to the dry soils.

Rainfall earlier in the week has now regenerated enough soil moisture to insure germination and farmers are encouraged to plant their wheat as quickly as possible before the ideal planting window closes. Farmers in Rio Grande do Sul who plant wheat in the middle of June will harvest the crop in October or November and then plant soybeans as soon as the wheat is harvested. If they want to plant an early crop of soybeans in September or early October, then they will not be able to plant winter wheat.

Rio Grande do Sul is now the leading wheat producing state in Brazil taking over the number one position from Parana. Farmers in Parana reduced their wheat acreage in favor of more safrinha corn production, but the climate in Rio Grande do Sul is too cold for safrinhaM corn, so farmers in the state continue to rely on wheat as their principal winter crop.

Wheat production in Brazil has always been problematic and wheat remains the only major crop for which Brazil is not self-sufficient. The domestic demand for wheat is about double the amount of wheat produced in the country. Most of the wheat imported into Brazil comes from neighboring Argentina. The early start to wheat planting in Argentina has also been problematic with only 15% of the crop planted compared to 30% last year at this time. Argentine wheat producers are expected to plant 15% less wheat in 2012.

Planting of barley and canola in Rio Grande do Sul are also being slowed by the dry weather. Barley planting usually begins in early June, but few areas of the state have adequate soil moisture for the barley to germinate. Most of the small canola crop in the state has been planted, but the early growth has been slow due to the dry conditions.

In the southern part of the state farmers are planting winter forages in spite of the dry soils. They are hoping for improved rainfall in the coming days to get the forages germinated in order to supplement pastures that were devastated by the prolonged drought. The dry pastures resulted in milk production falling by 30% to 50% in the hardest hit regions. Dairy producers must now rely on dwindling supplies of silage, grain, and meal to supplement their pastures until the winter forages become available. Available water supplies are a problem in many rural areas of the state and local governments continue to transport water by truck to the driest areas.