South America Calling

Good Soil Moisture in Argentina

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
Soil moisture across the main growing regions in Argentina are quite good as winter wheat planting gets into full swing. (USDA FAS image)

With yields across dry sections of Brazil almost set in stone as harvest get underway, we can turn our attention toward developing wheat that occurs through the winter months. Argentina and southern states in Brazil are where most of this activity occurs. At this time of year, it is always good to check how soil moisture is doing.

In the attached image, soil moisture is roughly 60% of capacity or higher based on satellite estimates as of June 13. That comes despite very little rainfall in this portion of the world during the last couple of weeks. Most of the rainfall activity has occurred over northern Argentina and into Paraguay and southern Brazil as systems move northward.

But with temperatures now toward the lowest readings of the year and occasional dips below freezing, especially across the south, evapotranspiration rates are low. This makes it a good time of year to plant winter wheat.

The area is as far south of the equator as Oklahoma and southern Kansas are north of it. That, combined with usually better precipitation and less of a chance for harsh winter temperatures, should put into perspective how good of an area this is to grow wheat. Even below-normal precipitation does not typically have much of an effect on yields if rains return in early spring, which occurs in September. As long as the frosts do not turn into freezes for a long period of time while the crops are establishing themselves, conditions are quite favorable most years.

This year stands no different. With soil moisture continuing to be favorable despite the lack of showers, below-normal precipitation through July should not have too much of an adverse effect. The DTN forecast is calling for near- to slightly above normal precipitation across the region August through October. This coincides with near to slightly above normal temperatures as well. As long as those temperatures are wild swings up and down that even out, and are more of a consistent winter-to-spring transition, winter wheat in Argentina should have good yields come next summer as the region gets hotter and drier.

The southern states in Brazil also grow a good amount of wheat over the winter. Being farther north, they run less of a risk of cold weather, but the warm conditions require more soil moisture as evapotranspiration is a bit higher.

Soil moisture is not as good in this region compared to Argentina. This is despite periods of showers that have moved through with some regularity. The spotty nature has left portions of the region wanting. There continues to be chances during the next week as a couple of frontal boundaries become active. Rainfall amounts could be heavy, with 25-75 millimeters (1 to 3 inches) forecast through June 24.

Dryness in July may reverse for portions of the region this spring, but confidence is not as great as it is toward the south. With temperatures remaining more on the warm side of normal into the summertime, the showers will need to be more timely as well.

John Baranick can be reached at


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