Wet weather takes toll on Brazil soy harvest

13 Feb 2018 | Reese Ewing

Soybean producers and agronomists are reporting the first signs of losses to disease and spoilage because of the relentless rains that are falling on Brazil’s 2017/18 crop now in the peak of harvest.

Adding to farmers’ concerns over declining yields, are rising freight and storage costs while the country’s main soy road BR-163 remains too muddy for trucks to pass, blocking the main northern export corridor for Brazil’s leading soybean state of Mato Grosso.

“We are seeing outbreaks of white mold with the wetter weather during harvest,” farming consultant Aureo Lantmann said from Londrina, Parana. “It’s getting to be a bigger problem for farmers because you can only spray fungicides in the flowering phase.”

Isolated farms in southern Mato Grosso in the center-west grain belt and in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s southernmost soybean state, are reporting an increased incidence of the fungus, with losses guesstimated at 2 to 7 60-kg bags per hectare, which yields between 55 and 75 bags across the regions affected, local consultants reported.

Spoilage or fermentation of soybeans and other crops such as soup beans and cotton has also become an issue across Mato Grosso, which is getting nearly daily rains.

Ailan Dalmolin, who manages a 4,300-hectare farm in Sorriso in the north of the state, reported that only 1,700 hectares of the farm’s fields have been harvested because his combines have been idle for several days over the past two weeks because of rains and muddy fields.

Dalmolin said he is waiting for a few days of sun to dry fields out before entering them with machinery.

Local consultants Safras e Mercado reported that 37% of Mato Grosso’s soy crop has been harvested by the end of last week, well below the 54% harvested at this time last year.

Others are not waiting and prefer to harvest their soybeans, even if it means transporting beans wet and paying greater freight and drying costs, rather than suffer greater losses to yields.

Cooperatives and grain warehouses in Sorriso are reporting trucks delivering soybeans with up to 40% humidity levels, well above the standard 14% accepted by most warehouses and silos.

Producers are having to pay for drying costs for the soggy beans. They are also having to pay more for their transportation costs to haul the heavier, wetter beans.

Warehouse space if filling up quickly in the region, producers say. They blame the slower movement of the crop to the ports with BR-163 still impassible for trucks. The road leads to the main northern grain export terminals in the state of Para, just to the north of Mato Grosso.

Although passage across most of the highway has been cleared, truckers from Mato Grosso hauling soy and corn have not managed to make it through a 65 km segment of the road that locals in frustration have dubbed the Soap Mountain because of its slippery conditions.