South America Calling

Drier March South America Forecast

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
Below normal rain is forecast for March in most of the primary South America crop regions. (DTN graphic)

Brazil soybean harvest continues at a slower-than-normal pace. Total harvest according to Patria Agronegocios sits at around 14% as of Feb. 19. According to CONAB through the same date, Mato Grosso has only reached 36% complete while Parana was only at 5%. This is well-behind the average pace, continuing the lagging trend during the season. However, both numbers are increases over last week and for Mato Grosso, constitutes a 14% increase from the prior week despite the constant showers.

I am sure it has been more difficult for producers to deal with the delayed season and showers during the last two weeks, but they are finding ways to get it done.

In fact, if you translate the harvest numbers backwards, soybean harvest is about two to three weeks behind the normal pace and following the general curve that we typically see. This would suggest that the major delay factor is not because of the current weather, but rather the two-week delay of the start of the Brazil rainy season during the South America spring in September-October.

Therefore, we can reasonably assume that despite the ongoing showers, which looks to continue through much of the main growing regions through the next 10 days, harvest progress should follow a normal curve, with rapidly increasing progress during the next couple of weeks. This will be very important as we head in March. Typically, the wet season rains begin to ease in April and especially in May. And as corn planting quickly follows soybean harvest, this is very important.

Average monthly rainfall for Cuiaba, Mato Grosso averages around 165 millimeters (6.5 inches) in March, 120 mm (4.75 inches) in April, and just 55 mm (2.1 inches) in May. All the while, temperatures remain rather high with daytime highs regularly in the lower to middle 30s Celsius (upper 80s to middle 90s Fahrenheit). With only two months of growth until dryness occurs, at least part of the safrinha (second-season) corn crop will be going into reproduction and filling in the start of the dry season. Corn will be more reliant on reserved soil moisture to pick up the slack.

So what does the forecast hold? For March, the DTN forecast calls for below-normal rainfall in central and northern Brazil and near- to above-normal precipitation over southern Brazil. This will cause concern about safrinha corn in Mato Grosso and the surrounding areas as soil moisture reserves may not be enough. For southern Brazil, the increase in soil moisture will be a welcome companion as soil moisture in that part of Brazil remains below normal. For April and May, near- to below-normal precipitation will be more widespread with no areas being highlighted for above-normal precipitation. This will add to the concern going forward for the safrinha corn season.

In Argentina, a front moved through the country Feb. 22-23 with some scattered showers. Moderate to heavy amounts were localized with many areas getting little to no precipitation.

Most of Argentina has below-normal soil moisture and below-normal precipitation during the past two weeks, leading to a decline in crop health for filling crops.

The forecast during the next two weeks and beyond are also on the dry side of normal. The dryness will push crops toward maturity and favor sunflower harvest, but the filling corn and soybeans will have difficulty maintaining yield prospects.

John Baranick can be reached at john.baranick@dtn.com

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