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South American crop update

By Daniele Siqueira, AgRural

Another crop season is underway in Brazil and things have not started exactly well for soybeans. And a poor start to the soybean crop always fuels speculations about the second corn crop, which is planted in the beginning of the year, right after the soybean harvest, and accounts for about 70% of Brazil’s total corn production and almost the entire corn export program. That’s why many people are already asking about the second corn crop planting window. Is Brazil going to cut its corn acreage in 2020 due to the soybean delay?

By Oct 17, Brazilian farmers had planted 21% of their intended area, compared to 34% in the same period a year earlier and also 21% on the five-year average, according to consultancy AgRural.

In top producer Mato Grosso, the soybean planting caught up after a slow start in September, and about half of its area was already planted by Oct 17. In number-two producer Paran√°, however, irregular rains and above-than-normal temperatures have given farmers a hard time since the beginning of the season. In the west of the state, at least 20% of the area they had planted by mid-October needed to be replanted due to poor germination.

Brazilian farmers are prepared to plant soybeans very quickly as soon as they have favorable weather conditions. For that reason, a slow start is not so much of a problem. When it comes to yields, a delay in the soybean planting is not exactly a serious issue either. Although farmers in Mato Grosso and Paran√° are allowed to start sowing in mid-September (after the end of the fallowing period adopted to control the spread of the Asian rust), the ideal planting window starts in October, when the spring rains get more regular and replenish the soil moisture.

In 2018, when the spring rains arrived earlier than normal, Brazil had its fastest soybean planting pace in history. But areas planted in September with early maturity varieties were hit by hot, dry conditions in December and January, during the pod-filling stage, and reduced Brazil’s production from 121 million to 115 million metric tons. The crop failure could have been worse if it were not for areas planted later.

But the fast soybean planting gave a boost to the second corn crop in 2019. Thanks largely to the early planting, the second crop had a larger acreage and bumper yields, taking Brazil’s total corn production (first and second crops combined) to 100 million metric tons for the first time.

In Brazil, the second corn crop is risky because the winter is dry and some southern areas normally have freezing temperatures at some point between May and July. That’s why planting and harvesting soybeans as soon as possible is so important to corn yields. The earlier the corn is planted, the better. And that takes us back to the initial question: is Brazil going to cut its corn acreage in 2020 due to the soybean delay?

A definite answer is not easy at this time. Top producer Mato Grosso will definitely not, especially after a year like 2019, with record production, skyrocketing exports and good prices in Brazilian reais. But what about Paran√° and other states? Weather conditions until mid-November will tell. Stay tuned.

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