Sep 25, 2019

2019/20 Soy Planting in Brazil off to a Slower Start than Last Year

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

Soybean planting in Brazil is getting off to a relatively slow start due to dry conditions. There were a few widely scattered showers over the weekend in Mato Grosso and Parana, but the forecast is now dryer than it was late last week. Most farmers in Brazil are still waiting for enough soil moisture to start planting their 2019/20 soybeans.

Mato Grosso - It has been dry for four months in Mato Grosso and central Brazil so only farmers with irrigation will risk planting their soybeans under such dry conditions. The Mato Grosso Institute of Agricultural Economics (Imea) estimates that 0.28% of the state's 9.7 million hectares of soybeans had been planted as of last Friday. That translates to about 27,000 hectares of soybeans planted. Last year at this time, farmers in the state had planted 79,500 hectares or approximately 0.83%.

There were some rains over the weekend in the municipality of Sorriso in central Mato Grosso, which encouraged some farmers to start planting their soybeans even without irrigation. Farmers in the municipality would like to finish their soybean planting by October 20th in order to allow enough time to plant their safrinha corn before the ideal planting window closes about the third week of February. Sorriso is the largest soybean and corn producing municipality in Brazil.

Parana - According to the Department of Rural Economics for the state of Parana (Deral), approximately 20,000 hectares of soybeans have been planted in the state, which is significantly less than the 490,000 hectares that had been planted last year at this time. Therefore, the situation this year is completely different that last year when farmers got off to a quick start on planting.

The lack of rainfall thus far has led to a slower start to soybean planting compared to last year. A slow start does not necessarily translate to lower yields as long as the weather during the rest of the growing season is beneficial. The advantages to planting early include: an early harvest when soybean prices are generally higher, earlier planting of the safrinha corn or cotton, and fewer problems controlling soybean rust and white flies.

If farmers have irrigation capabilities, then an early start to planting is guaranteed, but irrigation increases the cost of production due to the electricity needed to run the center pivots. It is estimated that the energy costs to run a center pivot in Mato Grosso is approximately R$ 475 per hectare (approximately $50 per acre). That costs should be paid for by a boost in the soybean yield and the yield of the safrinha corn as well.

Another benefit of irrigation is better control of the timing of the crops. With irrigation, it could be possible to grow three crops per year in central Brazil. Soybeans are the main crop which is planted in September and harvested in January. Safrinha corn is the second crop planted in January and harvested in June. There is now a third possibility and that is wheat.

Researchers in Brazil have experimented with six wheat varieties grown under irrigation during the dry season with very good results. The wheat would be planted as soon as the safrinha corn is harvested and the wheat itself would be harvested just before the next crop of soybeans are planted. There would have to be a higher level of management to produce three crops per year and the timing and weather would have to be just right, but researchers feel it could be possible.