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October 31, 2016

Some Farmers in Mato Grosso Worried They are Planting too Fast!

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

Ironically, some farmers in Mato Grosso, which is Brazil's largest soybean producing state, are concerned that they are planting their 2016/17 soybean crop too fast. Their concern stems from the fact that if the planting is concentrated in a narrow window, then the harvest will also be concentrated in a narrow window.

The Mato Grosso Institute of Agricultural Economics (Imea) reported last Friday that 25% of the state's soybeans were planted during the previous week and statewide, 67% of the soybeans have been planted. The current planting pace is approximately twice the planting pace of last year. At this rate, approximately 25% of the state's soybeans will be harvested in January compared to an average of about 10% and January is usually the peak of the rainy season in the state.

Only about 40% of the soybeans grown in Mato Grosso will be followed by a second crop of corn. Farmers only plant their safrinha corn after they have harvested their early maturing soybeans. Conab reported that during the 2015/16 growing season, farmers in the state planted 9.14 million hectares of soybeans and 3.77 million hectares of safrinha corn. They also planted approximately 450,000 hectares of safrinha cotton as well.

In recent years farmers in Mato Grosso as well as in other regions of Brazil have opted for more early maturing soybeans in order to allow enough time for a second crop of corn. It is estimated that approximately 40% of the soybeans in the state are early maturing varieties, 30% are medium maturing varieties, and 30% are later maturing varieties. That is why when you see pictures of soybeans being harvested in the state, the field next door or in the background might still be completely green.

Farmers plant different maturity soybeans because they want to spread out the risk of potentially dry weather during pod filling, but more importantly, the possibility of excessive wetness during harvesting. There are going to be a lot of soybeans in Mato Grosso that will be harvested during January and it is not unusual to have an extended period of rainy weather in January. There might be one, two, or possibly three weeks of constant heavy cloud cover with nearly 100% relative humidity and numerous showers off and on throughout the day and night. The temperatures are also going to be very warm in the low 90's. (Think of the summer weather in Houston or Orlando with higher temperatures and more rainfall).

As you can imagine, this type of weather can be very detrimental if a farmer is trying to harvest soybeans. The soybeans can become moldy or sprout in the pods and the losses can be very significant. Many farmers will apply a desiccant to the soybeans to speed up the maturity process. A desiccant causes the remaining leaves to drop off and it dries the stems of the soybeans. Approximately 7-10 days after application the soybeans are ready for harvest, if the weather cooperates.

It is always risky trying to harvest soybeans in central Brazil during the peak of the rainy season. Therefore, farmers in Mato Grosso who already know that they will be harvesting a lot of their soybeans during the month of January are hoping that the weather does not become excessively wet.