March 17, 2011

Poor Quality Soybeans Being Reported in Central Brazil

After waiting for several weeks for a break in the rainy weather, farmers in central Brazil have resumed harvesting their soybeans and they are finding the quality of the seed in some cases to be extremely poor. In the worst case scenarios, the seed sprouted in the pods resulting in a 100% loss. Even in the best case scenarios, quality losses are running 20% to 30% or higher.

The longer the soybeans stand in the field the worse the quality becomes so farmers are harvesting their soybeans at very high moisture in an attempt to save as much of the crop as possible. Under normal harvest conditions, soybeans come out of the field at 15-18% moisture, but some of the soybeans that are now being harvested in central Brazil are as high as 30% moisture. These high moisture soybeans must be dried immediately to avoid even further damage, but the drying process itself can result in even poorer quality.

The main problem is soybeans that are shriveled or moldy and light in weight. Farmers and grain officials in the region have reported that the volume of the soybeans being harvested may be normal, but the weights are below normal. The soybean yield is determined by weight and not volume so yields being reported from the field may actually have to be revised downward at a later date when the quality of the seed is taken into consideration. The yield reports coming out of central Brazil should be viewed critically because some of the soybeans may be high moisture and when the moisture is adjusted, the yields will be lower.

The normal limit for moldy or shriveled soybeans is set at 8%, but many soybeans that are now being harvested in northern Mato Grosso do Sul have 20% to 30% moldy and shriveled seed with some extreme cases as high as 80%. These soybeans are discounted significantly by the grain companies because the poor quality seeds must be screened out or blended with good quality seed to meet the standards. The problem this year is that there are not enough good quality seeds to do the blending.

Undoubted, some of the soybeans now being harvested will not be suited for normal processing or export, but instead may be used for animal feed. For the farmers in the region, the possibilities for using these soybeans as animal feed is very limited given the nature of the livestock industry in the region.