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May 4, 2011

Only 50% of Safrinha Corn in Mato Grosso is Assured

Farmers in Brazil had intended to plant more safrinhacorn due to the strong price signals sent by the market, but delayed soybean planting last September and October coupled with a rain-delayed soybean harvest cut into some of their planting decisions, at least in Mato Grosso. Additionally, an early end to the rainy season puts as much as 50% of the crop in the state at risk of severe yield reductions.

Conab currently estimates that the safrinhacorn acreage in Mato Grosso will decline 9.4% compared to last year to 1.8 million hectares. They also estimate that the total corn production could decline 12% to 7.13 million tons compared to the 8.3 million tons produced in 2010, but the production declines could end up being much more than what is currently being estimated.

The concern for the corn crop is the early onset of the dry season. Only light and very widely scattered showers have been falling in the state since the first of April and it's only going to get dryer moving forward. Many regions of the state have not received rain for 20-30 days and temperatures have been very hot in the mid-90s with very high evapotranspiration rates. In order for the crop to reach its yield potential, three more good rains would need to occur before the middle of May to salvage the crop, and those type of rains are not in the forecast, at least for now. safrinhacorn production is always a risky proposition and it was made even riskier this year with the delayed planting of the crop. Now that the dry season has apparently begun, the risk level for the crop has increased.

Up until this point, only about 50% of the crop is assured of reaching its original yield potential and that was the corn planted first. The later planted corn is crop that will desperately need additional moisture.

The condition and yield potential of the safrinhacorn depends when and where it was planted. The state of Mato Grosso has the most safrinhacorn acreage (32% of the total) and that is the state where the corn crop may be the first to encounter adverse weather conditions. The rainy season is quickly winding down in Mato Grosso. In Rondonopolis Mato Grosso, which is located in the southeastern part of the state, they received a light rain late last week (0.16 inches) and that was the first rain in over three weeks. There might be one lighter shower in the coming weeks, but essentially, the dry season has begun. There has been more rain in central and northern Mato Grosso, so the condition of the corn crop depends on its location.

The biggest potential concern for the safrinhacorn is the very late planted corn. If the corn was planted at a normal time, it is now pollinating and starting to fill grain. For corn at this stage of development in early May, the potential yield is probably about normal. Of all the corn I saw in Mato Grosso, approximately 25% of the crop is at that stage. Another 25% of the crop is just now pollinating and it might do OK with another one or two rains.

The other 50% of the crop is still in vegetative development. The average height for the late planted corn is between knee high and waist high. The very latest planted corn is less than a foot high. The corn that is still in vegetative development is going to have a significant problem retaining enough soil moisture to complete the grain filling process.

While farmers in Mato Grosso cut back on their safrinhacorn, farmers in other regions of Brazil such as Parana increased their safrinhacorn acreage. Conab will release their latest estimate of the safrinhacorn acreage later this week.

The second biggest safrinhacorn producing state is Parana and the weather in the state has been more conducive for corn development, at least thus far. The rains have continued to fall in the state as the corn developed vegetative. The potential problem in this state is the possibility of cold weather and frost before the corn matures. At this point, there is no forecast for extra cold weather, but the situation needs to be monitored.