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November 18, 2013

Soy-free Period may be Extended to Prohibit Safrinha Soybeans

The possibility that farmers in Mato Grosso might plant a second crop of soybeans after they harvest their first crop of soybeans in January and February has caught the attention of agronomist, entomologists, and now commodity associations in Brazil. The scientists are worried that two crops of soybeans back-to-back in the same field could result in increased amount of soybean rust and higher populations of corn earworms, both of which have the potential to do economic harm to soybean, cohrn, and cotton crops in the state.

The Soybean and Corn Producers Association of Brazil (Aprosoja) is scheduled in the near future to release technical guidelines concerning safrinha soybean production and indications are that they will recommend that farmers not plant a second crop of soybeans. Their concern is that two crops of soybeans could result in long term severe problems as far as diseases and pests are concerned.

Central Brazil is a tropical climate with no cold winter temperatures to help control pests so scientists feel that the best way to limit the spread of pests from one growing season to the next is to limit the amount of host plants growing during the dry season, which runs from May to September. By eliminating as many of the host plants as possible, it is hoped that the soybean rust spores will die out and it will disrupt the life cycle of the corn earworm.

In the mi-2000s, many Brazilian states adopted a 90-day soybean free period starting on June 15th and ending on September 15th. During this period no commercial soybeans are allowed to be growing and farmers and landowners are required to eliminate any volunteer soybeans growing in the field, along the side of the fields, along the roadways, or around storage and transportation facilities. This strategy has proven successful in controlling the early appearance of soybean rust in newly planted soybean fields.

The idea being floated now is to start the soybean-free period earlier in the year, which would essentially prohibit a second planting of soybeans. Most of early maturity soybeans in Mato Grosso are 95 day to 100 day maturity varieties. If these varieties are planted in October or early November, then they are then ready for harvest in January or early February.

In order to allow enough time for the second crop of soybeans to mature and be harvested before the start of the soybean-free period on June 15th, the potential second crop of soybeans would need to be planted no later than about March 1st. If they are planted alter than that, the soybeans may not be mature by June 15th and the farmers would be subject to a very hefty fine in addition to being required to destroying the crop before it is harvested.

If the soybean-free period was started a month or two earlier, it would essentially eliminate any possibility of planting a second crop of soybeans. No changes though are expected to be in place in time to impact decisions about the 2013/14 safrinha crop.

Farmers are contemplating this second crop of soybeans due to the low domestic prices being offered for corn. The current prices being offered for corn in Mato Grosso are below the cost of production and many farmers are still trying to decide what to plant for their second crop.