South America Calling

Dry Season Setting in for Brazil

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
March-through-May rainfall will be below normal for the Brazil safrinha corn areas. (DTN graphic)

And the dryness continues in Brazil ...

It is no secret that the majority of Brazil has gone fairly dry during the last 30 days. Except for a pocket here or there, the entire country has received less than the normal amount of rainfall, sometimes by significant margins of 100 millimeters (around 4 inches) or more.

Typically, the dry season begins in late April and early May in Brazil, the phase we are entering now. This year, the last couple weeks of the wet season have not been very generous. Crops count on good rainfall during the rainy season to get through the early portions of the dry season. With April having below-normal rainfall, the outlook is going from concerning to dire.

Most of the Brazil second season (safrinha) corn was planted about two to three weeks late due to several factors. That late safrinha corn planting makes the early start to the dry season notably stressful. Most of the safrinha crop is still in the growth stage and has yet to reach pollination. Entering reproduction during the dry season is always risky; and, with it coming early this year, that is doubly so. There is still some moisture in the subsoil for now, but the reserves are running dry.

Soil moisture estimates from satellite taken April 18 indicate that soil moisture has fallen below 50% of capacity for the majority of the Brazil growing regions. Pockets of better soil moisture conditions do exist, mostly in the states of Mato Grosso and Goias which historically account for roughly 40% of the country's total corn production. But these pockets are at less than 80% of capacity and are more isolated than the dry spots.

Temperatures continuing in the middle to upper 30s Celsius (90s Fahrenheit) will force corn to draw from deeper in the soil profile for the rest of its life cycle. Unfortunately, a lack of showers will deplete these reserves more than usual while corn is lingering later in the season.

Rainfall for the rest of the April continues to be below normal. With May typically being a normally dry month anyway, even normal precipitation in May, which is mostly expected, will be detrimental. A front or two may move through the country through early May and bring some occasional showers, but May does not have a significant signal for cold fronts to move through the region, which is the main mode of precipitation during the dry season. Estimates of 20 to 50 millimeters (roughly 1 to 2 inches) from models through the end of May for central growing regions will not be enough to satisfy the needs of pollinating or filling corn plants. Estimates for southern Mato Grosso do Sul through Parana offer closer to 100 mm (about 4 inches) of rainfall, but that is below normal as well by about 50 mm (about 2 inches). And these areas will also be at risk of patchy frosts for late April and early May before turning warmer.

John Baranick can be reached at


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