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October 21, 2014

Hot and Dry Weather Slows Planting Progress in Brazil

Hot and dry conditions across central Brazil continues to delay the planting of the 2014/15 crops in Brazil. A stubborn high pressure system in eastern Brazil has been blocking the entry of frontal systems from southern Brazil and preventing cloud formation. Many areas have gone 15-20 days without rain with record high temperatures hovering around 100° F. The average temperatures in the region thus far in October have been 6° to 12° C above normal (11° to 22° F).

The resulting moisture deficit in most of Mato Grosso for example is running at 4-8 inches and many farmers are commenting that they have not seen weather like this since they moved to Mato Grosso twenty to thirty years ago. The good news is that the high pressure system is supposed to start breaking down this week allowing some scattered showers to move into the region with more substantial rain forecasted for next week.

The months of September and October can be the hottest time of the year in central Brazil. The sun is at a very high angle and a lack of cloud cover or showers can lead to exceedingly high temperatures. The sun was directly above the Equator on September 21st (Vernal Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere) and it will be directly above the Topic of Capricorn on December 21st which runs through northern Parana (23.5° South Latitude, which is the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere). It is then directly above the Equator again on March 21st (Autumnal Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere). Therefore, all of central Brazil which lies between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn has a 90° sun angle twice a year, thus the high temperatures.

With such a direct overhead sun, dry soils without a vegetative cover can get extremely hot as well. Technicians from the Integrada Cooperative in northern Parana reported last week that soil temperatures in their region at the one inch depth were over 60 degrees C or over 140 degrees F. As a result of the high temperatures and lack of moisture, some of the newly planted soybeans will have to be replanted due to poor germination and emergence.

The region being impacted by the adverse conditions include the states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goias, Sao Paulo, Parana, Minas Gerais, Bahia, Tocantins, Piaui, and Maranhao. The crops that are being impacted the most in order of severity are: coffee, sugarcane, dry beans, full-season corn, and soybeans.

The state of Minas Gerais is probably the driest area and it is also the major coffee producing state in Brazil. The coffee trees should have bloomed by now, but instead, some of the trees are actually dropping their leaves due to the dry conditions. Over the last 72 hours there have been some light showers over about 30% of the coffee producing regions. Three quarters of an inch of precipitation is expected over about 40% of the coffee area over the next five days. The potentially "drought-breaking" rains are not expected until the middle of next week when generalized rains are forecasted for all the coffee producing regions of southeastern Brazil. When the rains do arrive, they will be 1-2 months later than normal and there will be a significant negative impact on coffee production not only for this year, but maybe for next year as well.

In addition to the impact on agriculture, many cities have instituted water restrictions as reservoirs in the region drop to critical low levels.

What is happening in central Brazil is the very reason why farmers in the region do not rush out and start planting their crops immediately after the first rain. They like to wait until they receive 2-3 inches of moisture to insure there is enough soil moisture for adequate germination and stand establishment. There may be a several week interval between the first rain and the second rain with very high temperatures in between. If they plant immediately after the first rain, they may end up having to replant the crop when additional moisture is received.