South America Calling

Little Hope for Central Brazil

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
A couple of fronts will bring moderate to heavy rain for southern Brazil; light to moderate showers will make their way northward into central Brazil. (DTN graphic)

Heat and dryness continued for another week through Brazil and the situation is looking dire, especially in the central growing regions of Mato Grosso, Goias and Minas Gerais. According to satellite estimates, soil moisture has generally fallen below 40% of capacity for this entire area outside of far northern and western Mato Grosso, which is in a little bit better shape.

Southern areas saw some rainfall last week, but less than 1 inch of rainfall did not do much other than stabilize the poor conditions down there. Soil moisture estimates continue below 40% of capacity even with showers that occurred.

Heat has continued to require high moisture demands from corn, which is now moving well into pollination. Daytime highs continue to soar into the lower to middle 30s Celsius (middle 80s to lower 90s Fahrenheit). This is typical for the region but exemplifies the need for subsoil moisture to maintain crop growth.

The second-season (safrinha) corn crop has not had much luck this year. Between being delayed because of a late soybean harvest and an early start to the dry season, what appeared to be a good crop by production estimators back in March has turned upside down with estimates continuing to fall each time a new report is released.

The critical period of pollination is when crops need moisture the most to ensure proper fertilization all the way up the corn ear. With near complete dryness, pollination and thus yields will surely suffer. There may be some hope for some of the crop in this regard coming up, however.

Two systems will bring rainfall to Brazil over the next week. The first is developing over northern Argentina and far southern Brazil as of this writing May 20. The front to this system is expected to produce widespread moderate to heavy rain across southern Brazil May 21-22. This includes the states of Parana, Mato Grosso do Sul and Sao Paulo. Rainfall amounts are estimated in the 15 to 40 millimeter (0.60 to 1.60 inch) range from the European model. There will likely be areas that receive more than this amount -- a highly beneficial rainfall event for corn in these areas. However, the front will lose steam as it heads farther north into Mato Grosso, Goias and Minas Gerais May 23-24. Southeastern Mato Grosso, which has been the hardest hit by drought in the highest producing state, may receive up to 25 millimeters (1 inch) of precipitation from the event. That may not do much other than stabilize crop conditions while other areas continue to suffer.

A second system will pull the stalled front from the previous system back to the south, producing more moderate to heavy rainfall across southern Brazil. Mato Grosso do Sul, Sao Paulo and points southward will again be in line for good rainfall from this system May 26-27. The front to this system may stall over Parana as well.

The rainfall in the south will be beneficial to those producers still hoping for a good season. But the lack of moisture northward in the higher production areas will continue to doom the yield prospects for the country.

As we head into June, it may start to become too late for crops to take advantage of any incoming moisture, especially in the central regions whose maximum yields may be locked in prior to that date. Even so, models continue to suggest at least some shower activity for southern regions, but nearly none in the central area.

John Baranick can be reached at


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