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August 25, 2016

Weak La Nina could Impact 2016/17 South American Crops

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

After the rapid demise of a strong El Nino earlier this year, the general consensus among meteorologists is that the Pacific Ocean will transition into a weak La Nina throughout the remainder of 2016. This is a more moderate forecast compared to several months ago when a moderate La Nina had been predicted.

Generally, a La Nina results in dryer than normal conditions in southern Brazil, northern Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay during the period from September to December according to meteorologists from the consulting firm Climatempo. During January and February, there seems to be less of a correlation between La Nina and the weather in southern South America. Under a weak La Nina, the rains in southern Brazil are predicted to start off irregular, but no drought-like conditions are expected.

There seems to be less of a correlation between La Nina and the weather in central Brazil although forecasters are predicting a delayed start to the rainy season in Mato Grosso. The forecast is for the start of the rains in Mato Grosso to be delayed approximately 30 days. Regular rains are predicted to start falling during the second half of October and become more regular during November.

Farmers in Mato Grosso are allowed to start planting their soybeans on September 15th, which is the end of the current soybean-free period. Meteorologists are advising farmers not to rush out and plant their soybeans after the first rain because subsequent rains may not be forthcoming for several weeks. Under that scenario, early planted soybeans may have to be replanted due to poor germination and inadequate plant populations.

The Mato Grosso Institute of Agricultural Economics (Imea) is forecasting that farmers in the state will increase their soybean acreage in 2016/17 by just 0.2% to 9.229 million hectares. This would be the smallest increase in about a decade. Imea is expecting the soybean yields to rebound in 2016/17 to 53.06 sacks per hectare (46.1 bu/ac) after a very disappointing 2015/16 growing season when yields were just 49.79 sacks per hectare (43.3 bu/ac). With the higher yields, the total soybean production in the state is expected to increase 6.8% to 29.3 million tons.

That rosy picture of the Mato Grosso soybean crop may be overly optimistic if the start of the rainy season is delayed as predicted. The soybean crop in the state might still be OK, but a delayed start to the soybean planting could imperial the safrinha corn crop. The 2015/16 safrinha corn crop in the state turned out to be a disaster due to hot and dry weather during April-May-June and also due to a delayed planting of the safrinha corn.

The predicted weak La Nina might actually be very good news for farmers in northeastern Brazil. A La Nina generally results in above normal rainfall in northeastern Brazil especially after the first of the year. This would be very good news for a region that suffered under the worst drought in several decades during the 2015/16 growing season. The soybean, corn, and cotton crops in the region were severely impacted by the dry weather, so farmers are hoping for a rebound in 2016/17.