South America Calling

Central Brazil Still Dry

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
The forecast remains incredibly dry for the safrinha corn season in Brazil. (DTN graphic)

Another week has gone by, but the forecast has not changed for Brazil. The majority of Brazil's growing regions now have soil moisture readings of no more than 50% capacity. The only exception is a strip in far western Mato Grosso do Sul that saw slightly increased soil moisture from weekend showers.

The second-crop (safrinha) corn is forced to pull more and more of that soil moisture out of the subsoil as there has been little to no replenishment at the surface during the last several weeks. However, the crop has not even reached the pollination phase yet over most areas. Soil moisture at pollination is paramount to crop health and yield. Without rain soon, crops are likely to go quicker into pollination, ahead of schedule. This would limit yield potential by itself. Combining that with continued dryness would only exacerbate the problems.

And indeed, the outlook is not favorable for rainfall. In the short term, there will be a front moving from Argentina into southern Brazil May 5. However, models only have showers from this front across Rio Grande do Sul possibly up into Parana, but near complete dryness north of there through the rest of that week.

Looking further out, it is indeed these southern areas that stand the best chance at seeing any meaningful rainfall through the end of June. Rainfall still looks to be below normal by 30-60 millimeters (1.2 to 2.5 inches), but perhaps timely enough to support safrinha corn.

It is in the central growing regions where the outlook is more dire. Extended versions of both the American and European models into mid-June paint a picture of no more than 30 mm for the major safrinha growing areas in Mato Grosso, Goias, Minas Gerais, and northern Mato Grosso do Sul. This nearly cements the idea that we have reached the beginning of the dry season, coming at a very unfortunate time for Brazilian producers.

Models have been wrong before, and they will be wrong again. There is a chance that one or more of these fronts that moves into southern Brazil continues northward and is able to bring some timely rainfall, but that is not the expectation. We should continue to see production estimates decline.

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 their life cycle. Unfortunately, a lack of showers will cause the soil profile to dry out faster than the country usually expects while corn is lingering later in the season.

May is typically dry anyway; thus, even normal precipitation in May, which is mostly expected, will be detrimental. A front or two may move across Brazil through early May and bring some occasional showers, but the month of May does not have a significant signal for cold frontal activity, which is the main mode of precipitation during the dry season. Estimates of 20 to 50 mm (roughly 1 to 2 inches) from models through the end of May for central growing areas 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). Also, these areas will be at risk of patchy frost for late April and early May before turning warmer.

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

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