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March 28, 2011

Quality Soy Seed Could be in Short Supply for next Brazil Planting

Farmers in central Brazil continue to struggle to harvest their soybeans in between the frequent rains that have afflicted the region since early February. The wet weather has resulted in lower yields and inferior seed quality. For farmers in the region, this is resulting in lost yields and reduced prices when they sell their soybeans. For commercial seed producers in the region that need to produce high quality seeds for next year's planting, this year is turning out to be a disaster. Commercial seed producers must produce soybeans that are high in germination and vigor, but the harvest conditions in central Brazil are resulting in just the opposite - very poor quality seeds.

Repeated wetting and drying of mature soybeans that are ready for harvest allows for a fungus called pod and stem blight (Phomoposis glycines) to enter the pod and infect the seed. This is the fungus that causes the seed to shrivel and turn moldy. The infection rates are generally higher when the temperatures are high and the infection rate this year has been extremely high in central Brazil. Even if the seeds do not visually appear to be infected, the fungus can be present under the seed coat. If the soybeans are going to be processed for meal and oil, the presence of the fungus is of little consequence. If the seed are going to used for planting, the presence of the fungus can be devastating because the seeds turn moldy instead of germinating normally.

An additional problem for the commercial seed producers in central Brazil is the fact that many of the soybeans have been harvested at very high moisture content which can cause high rates of mechanical damage during harvesting and drying. This mechanical damage to the seed coat can open up additional pathways for pathogens and insects to enter the seed and cause additional deterioration.

For commercial seed producers in central Brazil, this harvest season will likely result in seeds of very low germination and vigor which will be impossible to sell for the next planting season.

What is bad for commercial seed producers in central Brazil may end up being a benefit for seed producers in Rio Grande do Sul. The state is traditionally one of the largest commercial seed producing state in Brazil precisely because of the lower chances of encountering rainy weather during harvesting. There are approximately 110 seed producers in the state that grow 60 different soybean varieties. During the 2009/10 growing season, there were 330,000 tons of commercial soybean seed produced in the state.

Organizations of seed producers in the state are already advising their members that 2011/12 may be an exceptionally good year for seed sales and to make sure they maintain high quality seed.