Brazilian Bean Planting Shuts Down

Weather halts Mato Grosso early planting

Most in Brazilian agriculture pay special attention to those wild folk up in northern Mato Grosso state. They are always the first to get soybeans in the ground each season.

Some producers in Sorriso, Lucas do Rio Verde and Nova Mutum, Mato Grosso even plant their seed before the no-soy period ends on September 15, knowing that the law doesn't keep them from having beans below ground before that date.

Why the rush? Their hurry to get early varieties in early allows them to follow with second-crop corn or cotton in; that urgency then gives them time to get harvest done before dry season can sap yields too badly come May.

But, aside from a few places in the area favored by spot rains, Mato Grosso planting is shut down this year like the U.S. federal government.

In Brazil's case, though, Mother Nature, not the politicians, is to blame.

"I was up around BR 163 (a Brazilian highway that runs through those first-to-plant Mato Grosso counties) last week," says Ademir Rostirolla, who farms in a more westerly part of the state. "I saw that planting was stopped due to a lack of soil moisture, with just a few fields being planted due to localized rains."

Rostirolla says his property has only gotten 1.2 inches of rain on low-clay soils since the no-soy period ended. He says at least 1.6 inches will be needed before he rolls the planters. 

And, in fact, the state's Ag Economics Institute's latest report indicates that just .8 percent of Mato Grosso's projected 2013-14 soybean planted area has been planted so far (and just over two percent of the projected area of those first-to-plant counties in the northern part of the state.) For the same week of last year, the statewide average planting progress was close to two percent.

But I thought there might be more to this season's less frantic planting pace, and put it to Rostirolla that there may be less of a rush to push the envelope and get those early beans in early because there's less interest in second-crop corn this season. After all, local prices across a good part of the state are lower than production costs, and piles of corn have been sitting under tarps this season, with nowhere to put the stuff.

See related: A Flood of South American Corn

But Rostirolla says he thinks 2013-14 Mato Grosso second-crop corn production will be as big, or bigger, than last season's production—even if it gets into the ground later. They need the rotation, after all. But it seems likely yields will drop as producers invest far less in inputs on what's already a money-losing crop. So it's no wonder that the one place in Brazil where they actually make a bit of corn ethanol is in Mato Grosso. Look for them to make more and more.

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