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September 16, 2011

Farmers in Central Brazil May Now Start Planting Soybeans

As of today, September 16, the 90-day soybean free period has ended and farmers in Mato Grosso may start to plant their 2011/12 soybean crop if they have enough soil moisture it insure germination and stand establishment. There have been a few light showers in Mato Grosso over the past few days, but not enough to sufficiently wet the soils after a lengthy dry season that in some locations lasted more than 100 days.

A few farmers in Mato Grosso have taken a big risk and started to plant soybeans, but for the vast majority of the farmers in the state, it is still too risky to plant soybeans and they will wait for additional moisture before they start. The forecast isn't calling for any additional rainfall until the end of September and that is what has many farmers reluctant to plant their crops.

The problem is that if there is only enough soil moisture for the soybeans to germinate, the small seedlings may quickly run out of moisture. The soils in central Brazil have a relatively low water holding capacity and the limited moisture can be quickly evaporated due to the very high temperatures at this time of the year. In the city of Lucas do Rio Verde, which is located in central Mato Grosso, the average high temperature forecasted for the next ten days is 36 degrees C or 98 degrees F. If it doesn't rain for several weeks after the soybeans germinate, the seedlings will probably die due to a lack of moisture and the crop will need to be replanted.

The municipality of Lucas do Rio Verde, is traditionally the first place in Brazil where soybeans are planted. A relatively new trend has developed in the region in recent years as farmers started to plant a second crop of cotton after they harvested their early maturing soybeans. This safrinhacotton crop is taking the place of some of the safrinhacorn. The safrinhacotton cannot be planted past the end of January which means the first crop of soybeans needs to be planted at the earliest possible time. For those farmers who are going to plant a second crop of corn there is a little more leeway. The safrinhacorn should be planted before February 20thso farmers can wait several weeks more until there is enough soil moisture to insure the soybean seedlings will survive, but for those farmers wanting to plant safrinhacotton, they may take a risk and start planting their soybeans.

Last year a strong La Nina event resulted in a delayed onset of the rainy season and many farmers in Mato Grosso did not plant their soybeans until mid-October. A late start in soybean planting does not necessarily mean that the soybean yields will be lower, but it does have ripple effects. The first thing it does is to delay the harvesting of the early maturing soybeans until late January or early February and that delays the planting of the safrinhacotton and corn crops. Delays in planting the safrinha can result in lower yields for both cotton and corn.

The other thing it does is to delay the start of the soybean exports from Brazil. If soybeans are planted during the second half of September, initial exports of new crop soybeans out of Brazil can start by the end of January. If planting is delayed 3-4 weeks, than the start of exports are delayed the same amount. That is important for U.S. markets because it can extend the peak of the U.S. export season for several weeks as well.