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Drought hurt early-planted soybeans in Brazil

TANGARA da SERRA, Mato Grosso -- While visiting a large farm in northern Brazil, even in the prime soybean region, yields are coming in lower than expected.

As soybeans planted in October are now being harvested, some reports are ranging between 45 to 46 bushels per acre.

A few reasons for the low yields include a drought-like period early in the growing season that stunted the growth of the crop. In addition, farmers, in an attempt to shave costs, cutting back on fertilizer, herbicide and fungicide applications.

Driving through Mato Grosso, Brazil's number-one soybean-producing state, a number of fields were riddled with weeds. It's obvious some producers cut back on herbicide.

At SLC Agricola, the farm visited by this group, herbicide applications were not cut back, but the dry weather early in the season hurt.

Mario Reneu Gabe, agronomist for SLC Agricola, one of the Brazil's largest farm companies, said the early varieties took a hit, but the mid- to late-season varieties are doing much better.

"We harvested some beans just yesterday, they averaged 46 bushels per acre. That is disappointing. And another field we harvested averaged 49 bushels per acre," Gabe said. "We're going to come back and double-crop those fields with corn."

SLC Agricola, has many producers throughout Brazil. At this location, northwest of Cuiaba, the mid- to late-season varieties have received plenty of favorable weather.

It's important to note that SLC Agricola produces 197,000 acres of soybeans throughout Brazil. Though the company makes most of its revenue off of cotton, 62% of its total production is in soybeans. So, the Mato Grosso company has a lot of different soybeans in various growth stages.

At this same location, Gabe showed us a 750 acre field of Group 8.5 soybeans to be harvested in about 40 days.

"I see these beans doing 55 bushels per acre; they did 51 last year," Gabe said. "They have enough moisture to finish strong. We will continue to monitor for rust."

In late December, this area recorded 11 inches of rain in three hours.

Marco Peres, an agronomist for Barralcool, a company that raises soybeans for its biodiesel plant, said soybeans in west-central Mato Grosso should record above-average yield.

"Our average is 45 bushels per acre; this year's crop is looking like 55 bushels. The weather has been healthy," Peres said.

Peres said the soybeans that are in the R-4 growth stage have been sprayed for the rust disease.

U.S. agronomists in the group identified rust pustules on one leaf that appeared to have been killed by a fungicide application.

It all depends on who you talk to, but Brazil is expected to harvest close to 55 million metric tons of soybeans this season, a record crop.

The market expects Brazil's crop to be near 54.6 million metric tons. The yields being reported in this area would drop that total to near 50.0 million metric tons.

TANGARA da SERRA, Mato Grosso -- While visiting a large farm in northern Brazil, even in the prime soybean region, yields are coming in lower than expected.

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