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U.S. farmers can keep eyes on South America through Crop Watch

Agriculture.com Staff 02/06/2006 @ 1:44pm

A new project from Agriculture Online will help U.S. growers keep pace with major developments in South America that are impacting production and prices for soybeans and other crops this year.

South America Crop Watch will feature on-site reporting from a correspondent, Laura Karlen, an Iowa-based crop consultant.

Karlen is travelling in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Venezuela through the winter, covering crop conditions in those nations, including weather, potential yields, and developments with Asian soybean rust. She is visiting with farmers, agronomists, researchers and others who are close to the ground in key crop regions of the continent.

In other updates, Agriculture Online Markets Editor Mike McGinnis will focus on the big picture of events in South America that are helping drive the markets in the U.S. and around the world. Freese-Notis Weather will provide daily updates on crop weather conditions in South America and the U.S.

A major initial theme of SA Crop Watch will be weather, which has shaped up as a big market mover this winter, says David Brew, a grain broker for Brasoja Corretora de Cereais, one of the oldest trading firms in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil. "Currently, climate has to be the most important issue, with dry weather affecting not just parts of Parana [in Brazil], but also stretching into Paraguay and Argentina," Brew told Agriculture Online in late January.

The weather situation may be most critical in Argentina currently, Brew said.

"It will be interesting to see how badly their crop is affected because normally they sell big time at harvest, in part because storage at the port is limited," he said. "With a smaller crop this year or with a poorer quality crop, perhaps their sales frenzy will be smaller."

Interest in South American weather and crop conditions has increased with the acreage grown on the continent, says Harvey Freese, Freese-Notis Weather. Soybean production has expanded beyond Rio Grande do Sul, which has a wetter climate than the U.S.

"In the past a typical 'weather market' in Brazil consisted of a few weeks of drier weather in this region, and once it rained the concern ended, or heavy rains occurring at harvest affected the harvest conditions," Freese says. "Now the soybean planted acreage has expanded north and south into more variable climatic zones, so naturally there are more areas to watch and forecast, and more areas to be concerned about during the entire growing season."

Another theme in SA Crop Watch will be the status of soybean rust -- how it's impacting the crops and how farmers there are fighting it. Karlen will talk with leading rust researchers, farmers, and agronomists and bring back reports that will add to the practical knowledge of U.S. farmers.

Other issues in store for Crop Watch coverage: Are the Chinese manipulating the CBOT soy prices through South American purchases? Are South American farmers likely to expand soybean acres next year? What new technologies are being used by American farmers in Brazil?

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