South America Calling
Alastair Stewart South America Correspondent

Monday 04/07/14

Brazil Plants Less Second-Crop Soy Than Feared

Over the past 10 years, double cropping of soybeans followed by corn has become widely established across large swaths of Brazil's grain belt.

However, this season many farmers were reluctant to plant second-crop corn because of low prospective margins.

Unfortunately, there are few second-crop alternatives that offer the chance of decent financial returns. Cotton is popular in Mato Grosso but only large farms have the capital to buy the equipment.

One option left open was to plant a second crop of soybeans directly after the first.

Before planting, farm leaders speculated that up to 2 million acres of second-crop corn could be planted, roughly equivalent to 2.5% of summer planting.

But with second-crop planting now complete, it has become clear that planting was actually much more limited, totaling no more than 600,000 acres

Mato Grosso, Brazil's No. 1 soybean state, planted approximately 300,000 acres of second-crop soybeans, according to Agroconsult, a local farm analytics firm.

Meanwhile, Parana, the No. 2 state, planted 277,000 acres of second-crop soybeans, up 38% on the year, according to the state agricultural department.

Few other states will plant second-crop soybeans.

Most of the second-crop soybeans are in a perilous state, suffering heavy disease and pest attacks, according to Andre Pessoa, an Agroconsult director.

Many farmers in Mato Grosso planted winter soybeans but have actually abandoned the crop because of infestation, said Nery Ribas, head agronomist at the Mato Grosso Soybean and Corn Growers Association (APROSOJA-MT).

The situation is a little better in Parana, but there too yields will be disappointing. Parana state forecasts average yields of 28 bushels per acre.

Meanwhile, costs are pushed higher by the need to spray more intensively.

According to Agroconsult's Pessoa, farmers will need to spray fungicide on second-crop soy six times, compared with three in the summer.

A few farmers in Parana have planted a second-crop of soybeans for some years, but this is the first time more than 100,000 acres have been planted.

The spread of winter beans poses a big crop health threat to the summer crop. Brazil's tropical farms are already more prone to disease and pests than their U.S. counterparts because of the lack of a cold winter.

The presence of soybeans in fields for most of the year will provide a perfect environment for diseases, such as Asian rust, to multiply and for pests, such as the Helicoverpa armigera caterpillar, to pass the winter.

Greater incidence of pests and disease will force farmers to use many more chemicals, inevitably leading to greater resistance.

It's an agronomic nightmare that, with soybean costs rising and the outlook for lower prices on the horizon, Brazilian soybean farmers can ill afford.


Posted at 2:35PM CDT 04/07/14 by Alastair Stewart
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