South America Calling

Concern for Brazil Growing

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
Dryness setting up in central and northern Brazil this week is forecast to last through the month of April, sparking concern over safrinha corn yield prospects. (DTN graphic)

With the crop situation almost all but set in Argentina for this growing season, the attention slides firmly north to the Brazil second-crop (safrinha) corn season.

Rainfall in February and most of March has been near to above normal from Mato Grosso to Minas Gerais and points northward as showers have continually inundated the area. This had led to first-crop soybean harvest delays, and safrinha corn planting delays, but filled much of the area soils to the brim.

While the concern about the later-planted crops was a concern, the filled soils going into the end of March and April showed promise of a good season. Major institutions like CONAB and Patria AgroNegocios increased their estimates for both total and safrinha corn yields based on this fact.

But La Nina is still in play. While weaker than it had been through the Northern Hemisphere winter and Southern Hemisphere summer, the tendency for a drier season still lurks in the background, despite the recent rainfall. True, the effects are greater over southern Brazil and Argentina, but central and northern areas of Brazil have shown a tendency for a shorter wet season and reduced rainfall amounts. That is according to research done by USDA Chief Meteorologist Mark Brusberg.

While at first glance the drier stretch this current week of March 22 was seen as a good thing to allow some oversaturated soils to drain, finish soybean harvest, and complete safrinha corn planting, it is now becoming a worrisome trend.

Models continue the dry weather through the entire month of April and so does the DTN forecast. Rainfall amounts could be 50 to 100 millimeters (roughly 2 to 4 inches) below normal for the month. This will coincide with daytime highs reaching the middle to upper 30s Celsius (upper 90s to near 100 Fahrenheit) at times through the month, some 3 to 5 degrees C (roughly 5 to 10 degrees F) above normal. Evaporative losses would be very large over this stretch of time, eliciting a larger-than-normal draw of subsoil moisture.

While many areas are currently full in the subsoil profile, the supplies likely cannot keep up with demand for an entire month. Sure, there will be a return of showers for sure, but likely not to the extent that the crops will need as they go into reproduction in May, and certainly with little reserves.

Even near-normal precipitation in May will not be enough, as the dry season typically starts during that month. Soils will need to be relatively full of moisture to allow crops to take full advantage of the sunshine and heat. If the forecast pans out like this, then the historic production forecasts may be overstated. "This would add one more bullish factor to a corn price that has already seen record U.S. corn exports to China," said DTN Lead Analyst Todd Hultman.

John Baranick can be reached at


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