June 19, 2019

Winter Wheat Planting underway in Brazil

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

Farmers in southern Brazil are in the process of planting their 2019 winter wheat crop. In the state of Parana, which is the largest wheat producing state in Brazil, farmers have planted 74% of their intended wheat acreage. Wheat acreage in Parana is expected to decline 6% to approximately 1 million hectares according to the Department of Rural Economics (Deral).

The declining wheat acreage in Parana continues the trend of recent years. The recent wheat crops in Parana have been hit by dry weather at planting, late season frosts, and then heavy rains at harvest. It's the rains at harvest that are the biggest problem because they lower the quality of the grain which then can only be sold as feed wheat for animal rations.

Even though wheat prices in Parana are a little more attractive this year at approximately R$ 46.50 per sack (approximately $5.50 per bushel), that was still not enough to encourage farmers to increase their wheat acreage.

Historically, farmers in the state have had a hard time selling their wheat at a profit due to problems at harvest, low quality grain, and competition from neighboring Argentina which is the source of most of Brazil's wheat imports.

The second largest producing state is Rio Grande do Sul where the wheat is 45% planted. Farmers in the state are expected to plant 740,000 hectares of wheat in 2019.

There has been a trend in recent years to plant more winter wheat in the cerrado areas of central Brazil, but wheat blast (Magnaporthe grisea) has become a major concern. According to Embrapa, wheat blast is a difficult to control fungal disease even in the best of times. This year, the weather in central Brazil has been extra wet, which has hindered control measures. The disease has caused loses of 70% in many areas with some loses as high as 100%.

Embrapa is working on developing resistant wheat varieties, but as of now, there are no wheat varieties totally resistant to blast. The best way to control the disease is to plant the wheat at the appropriate time, hope for lower rainfall totals, and make preventative fungicide applications.

Ironically, the wheat acreage in the cerrado areas of central Brazil was doubled this year to 200,000 hectares based on the success of last year's crop.

Brazil is only able to produce about half of the wheat needed for the domestic market, so they import the other half mainly from Argentina. Brazil generally imports 6-7 million tons of wheat on an annual basis.