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April 20, 2021

45% to 50% of Brazil's 2020/21 Safrinha Corn under Moisture Stress

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

Late last week and over the weekend there were generally light and scattered showers across south-central Brazil. In the areas that received rain, it was probably enough for a temporary reprieve from the dryness, but much more rain will be needed to sustain the safrinha corn crop. Unfortunately, there is only limited rainfall in the forecast and some meteorologists are forecasting an end to the summer rainy season by the end of April.

The combination of historical late planting and dryer than normal weather has already started to impact the crop. Brazilian farmers have increased their safrinha corn acreage due to historical high domestic corn prices, but many are concerned that their corn yields have already been negatively impacted by the dry conditions.

The dryness is a significant concern in the states of Parana, Mato Grosso do Sul, Sao Paulo, southern Goias, and southeastern Mato Grosso. If the weather does not improve, this will probably be the first of what will be several reductions in the Brazilian corn estimate. In a worst case scenario, the safrinha corn production could be reduced as much as 10 million tons or more.

Under a dryer than normal scenario, the safrinha production in Mato Grosso could be reduced by 5%, with Parana down 20%, Mato Grosso do Sul down 15%, Goias down 5%, Minas Gerais down 5%, and Sao Paulo down 5%. If the summer rains end by the end of April, the percentage of losses in these various states will be even greater.

Farmers in Brazil are concerned about: the lateness of the safrinha corn, the current dryer than normal weather pattern, and the presence of an aggressive new corn pest. It is estimated that 30-50% of the safrinha corn was planted after the ideal planting window had closed. Late planting by itself is a concern and if the late planting is coupled with dry weather, it becomes an even bigger concern. It is estimated that 45% to 50% of the safrinha corn is in various stages of needing rain.

Weather is always a risk factor for safrinha corn, but this year there is an added risk from corn leafhoppers (Dalbulus maidis), which is an aggressive new corn pest in south-central Brazil. Corn leafhoppers can transmit the MRFV virus which can cause stunting and premature wilting of corn plants resulting in significant yield losses. Corn leafhoppers caused problems with the full-season corn in southern Brazil and farmers are worried it might do the same for the safrinha corn.

Mato Grosso Safrinha Corn - The Mato Grosso Institute of Agricultural Economics (Imea) estimated that 45% of the safrinha corn in the state had been planted after the ideal window had closed. They estimated that the late planting would reduce the average corn yield by 3.5% from initial estimates to 102.5 sacks per hectare (97.7 bu/ac) and that the state's corn production would be 34.9 million tons or 1.3% less than last year.

Municipality of Nova Mutum, Mato Grosso - In the municipality of Nova Mutum, which is located in south-central Mato Grosso, the safrinha corn was planted about 30 days later than normal which has made a big difference in the corn development. Some of the earlier planted corn is in pre-pollination while some of the later planted corn is 15 inches tall. In addition to the delayed planting, the rainfall since planting has been irregular. The municipality has received about 50 mm (2 inches) of rainfall during the first half of April. The average monthly rainfall during April is in the range of 170 to 230 mm (6.8 to 9.2 inches).

Officials from Aprosoja-MT indicated that if the dryer than normal pattern persists, the safrinha corn production could be significantly impacted. In addition to irregular rains, there is also increased pest pressure especially from corn leafhoppers.

Many farmers in the municipality are not selling any more of their corn other than what has been forwarded contracted in order to meet their costs. They probably will not return to the market until sometime in May when they have a better handle on their potential corn production.

Parana Safrinha corn - The condition of the safrinha corn in Parana declined last week due to a lack of rainfall. According to the Department of Rural Economics (Deral), the safrinha corn in Parana was 3% germinating, 86% in vegetative development, 9% pollinating, and 2% filling grain as of earlier last week. The corn was rated 3% poor, 21% average, and 76% good. The percentage of the crop rated good the prior week was 92%.

In their latest assessment of the safrinha corn crop in the state of Parana, the Department of Rural Economics (Deral) lowered their 2020/21 corn production estimate for the state due to delayed planting of the safrinha corn and dry weather. The safrinha corn was planted later than normal due to the delayed soybean harvest. The longest delays were in the western part of the state where 30-40% of the corn was planted after the ideal planting window had closed.

The planting delays alone led Deral to lower the corn production estimate from their initial 14 million tons to 13.4 million and they indicated that more reductions are possible in the future. The state of Parana is the second leading safrinha corn producing state in Brazil accounting for approximately 16% of the total safrinha corn production. Mato Grosso is the leading state accounting for approximately 44% of the total production.

A lack of rainfall over the last several weeks has led to the development of moisture stresses. The corn development has already been impacted and significant rains will be needed within the next 10 days for the crop to normalize. The later planted corn will need rain through the month of June to achieve normal yields, but unfortunately, the forecast for May and June is for below normal rainfall.

In addition to dry conditions, farmers in Parana are concerned about increased pest pressures especially from corn leafhoppers (Dalbulus maidis), which is a new pest in the region and has been a particular problem in south-central Brazil this growing season. Corn leafhoppers can transmit the MRFV virus which can cause stunting and premature wilting of corn plants resulting in significant yield losses. It was already a concern for the full-season corn and now it's a concern for the safrinha corn.

Mato Grosso do Sul Safrinha Corn - The Agriculture and Livestock Federation of Mato Grosso do Sul (Famasul) indicated that all the safrinha corn had been planted by last week and that farmers in the state had increased their safrinha corn acreage by 5.7% to 2.00 million hectares. Strong domestic corn prices was the reason for increased corn acreage. Corn prices last week in Mato Grosso do Sul were in the range of R$ 84.63 per sack or approximately $7.00 per bushel.

More than half of the safrinha corn in Mato Grosso do Sul was planted after the ideal window had closed as compared to an average of about 20%. The corn development is highly irregular due to the delayed planting and rain will be needed in the near future to insure adequate corn development.

Sao Paulo Safrinha Corn - Farmers in the state are concerned about how late they were forced to plant the safrinha corn and the presence of corn leafhoppers. The corn is normally planted starting at the end of January and ending by the end of February. This year though, planting was not completed until about mid-March, which is approximately two weeks after the ideal planting window had closed.

The table below is Conab's April estimate for Brazil's 2020/21 safrinha corn production.

2020/21 Brazilian Safrinha Corn Production

StateAcreageEstimated Production% of Total2019/20 Production
 million hectaresmillion metric tons million metric tons
Mato Grosso 5.81 36.15 43.7 34.60
Parana 2.38 13.48 16.3 11.41
Mato Grosso do Sul2.10 11.08 13.4 8.64
Goias1.65 10.62 12.8 10.39
Minas Gerais 0.60 3.76 4.5 2.85
Sao Paulo 0.53 2.71 3.2 2.33
Source: Conab April 2021 Crop Report