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Brazil Soybean Planting Slows as Dry Conditions Spread

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Soybean planting in Brazil for the 2023/24 season has slowed as farmers struggle with uneven rainfall and increasing dryness in the country’s main soy-producing states. Conditions have quickly deteriorated from the favorable outlook at the beginning of the month, which Gro wrote about here.

Erratic precipitation across key Center-West states have led to inconsistent planting. In Mato Grosso, the country’s No. 1 soybean producing state, modest drought conditions began ticking higher in mid-October, as measured by the Gro Drought Index, weighted for the state’s soybean areas using Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture. And in Mato Grosso do Sul state, conditions have turned steadily drier since early October, as this Gro Navigator display shows. 

Mato Grosso’s soybean crop was 52% planted as of October 23, compared with 64% last year at this time, according to Brazil’s CONAB. For Mato Grosso do Sul, planting was 30% completed, compared with 49% a year earlier. 

Limited rains are in the forecast for the next two weeks, as shown by Gro’s forecast models, but more are needed to build soil moisture, especially as temperatures remain elevated. 

View this Gro display of week-by-week precipitation quantities in Brazil’s major soybean producing states.

The dry conditions have also reduced water levels in the Amazon River basin to the lowest levels in over a century, which has delayed some corn exports.

Planting delays could leave the soybean crop vulnerable to excessive heat during the crop’s flowering and pod development phase in November and December. Brazil is the world’s No. 1 exporter of both soybeans and corn, and any interruption in production could impact global supplies. This year, US soybean supplies are already at a seven-year low, and worsening drought continues to threaten the Argentine soybean crop, as Gro wrote about here.

Slowed soybean planting in Brazil could also set back the country’s second corn sowing, or safrinha, which occurs immediately following the soybean harvest in February. Safrinha planting delays risk exposing the crop to increasingly dry conditions, resulting in lower yields. Safrinha represents 75% of Brazil’s corn production. 

Current forecasts for Brazil’s soybean production call for a record 163 million tonnes — up from 156 million tonnes in the 2022/23 season — based on greater planted area and an expected increase in yields, as seen in Gro’s Brazil Soybean Monitor. The Monitor also contains Gro’s Brazil Soybean Yield Forecast Model, which will go live in mid-December when the crop gets established. 

El Niño could make a difference in the crop’s outcome. Historically, the global climate event has brought higher precipitation to Brazil’s croplands, though mostly in southern states. Gro’s medium-term forecasts currently point to wetter-than-average weather in the country’s south from October through December, but drier-than-normal weather in the central states of Mato Grosso and Goiás. 

Currently in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, which produces around 15% of Brazil’s soybeans, accumulated precipitation and soil moisture levels remain far above average, as seen in this Gro Navigator display.  

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