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September 12, 2012

S. American Weather - Floods in Argentina, Hot and Dry in Brazil

The early growing season weather in South America is becoming a little more worrisome. Over the last several weeks it's been extremely wet in Argentina and extremely hot and dry in central Brazil.

Argentina - Massive flooding has inundated parts of southern and southwestern Buenos Aires province. The heavy rains and flat terrain has resulted in massive areas of flooding, isolated communities, destroyed roads, drowned cattle, and heavy damage to the agricultural sector in the region. Estimates are that as much as half a million acres may be impacted.

The flooded areas of Buenos Aires province are very flat and the flood waters are going to drain very slowly. It's going to be several weeks before all the water is gone and that is only if there is no additional rainfall. As far as crop damage is concerned, the immediate impact will be on the wheat and barley crops. Any wheat that is currently under water will be lost once the flood waters recede.

The more long term impact will be on the potential corn and soybean acreage in the region. Much of the wheat that was flooded-out would have been followed by double crop soybeans planted after the wheat was harvested. Those flooded-out wheat acres will now probably be planted to full-season soybeans instead of double crop soybeans. The fields that were not planted to wheat would have probably been planted to corn or soybeans, but now the question is whether the area will dry out in time for corn planting.

If possible, the farmers in Argentina would like to have already started planting their 2012/13 corn crop, but in the most severely flooded areas, it will take several weeks of dry weather before planting could start and that is if there is no additional rainfall.

Since corn is the first crop planted in Argentina, it is probably unlikely that all the intended corn acreage in the region will end up being planted to corn. Therefore, some of the non-planted corn acreage could be planted to additional soybeans.

In the end, these floods will probably result in less corn acres being planted in Buenos Aires province than what had been anticipated and more soybean acres. There will also be less double crop soybean acres and more full-season soybeans instead.

Brazil - In central Brazil the situation is just the opposite of what it is in Argentina. It's been very hot and dry in central Brazil and it appears that the start of the rains may be delayed. The last rain in parts of northern Mato Grosso was about 115 days ago and there is no rain in the near term forecast. Farmers in Mato Grosso are allowed to start planting their 2012/13 soybean crop next Saturday (September 15), but they won't plant until there is adequate soil moisture to insure germination and stand establishment.

A week or two delay in starting to plant the soybeans will not negatively impact the soybean yield potential, lower yields would only occur if the planting was delayed 3-4 weeks or more. A delay in the start of soybean planting though would delay the start of soybean exports from Brazil. It would also mean that a potentially much larger soybean crop would need to be exported in a more narrow export window and that would probably cause even more congestion at Brazil's chronically congested ports.

A delay in the soybean planting would be important for the safrinha corn crop in Brazil. Mato Grosso has the largest safrinha corn crop in the country and the farmers in the state want to plant their early-maturing soybeans as early as possible to allow enough time to plant their second crop of corn before the planting window closes on about February 20. The safrinha corn crop continues to gain importance in Brazil and it accounted for more than half of Brazil's corn production in 2011/12 (see next article).

If the safrinha corn planting is delayed, then there is a significant risk of lower yields due to a lack of moisture when the crop is filling grain. During the 2011/12 growing season, the rains continued until the end of June and as a result, Brazil's safrinha corn crop was excellent.