By Alastair Stewart
DTN South America Correspondent
SAO PAULO, Brazil (DTN) -- The sun is beating down on soybean farms across Mato Grosso, Brazil's No. 1 producing state, Thursday, extending the dry October that has stalled planting and messed up growers' crop planning.
"Farmers are nervous. They should be well into planting now, but the rain just doesn't come," said Nery Ribas, technical director at the Mato Grosso Soybean and Corn Growers Association (Aprosoja-MT).
The state, which accounts for around 30% of total Brazilian soy output, typically starts planting in the second half of September and accelerates at the beginning of October.
But the normally ample and clockwork-like spring rains have yet to arrive to nourish soils after the dry Cerrado winter.
No more than sparse, intermittent rains have fallen over the last month. As a result, the state had only planted 8% of its forecast 22 million acres of soybeans as of Friday, according to the Mato Grosso Agricultural Economy Institute (IMEA).
With rain a rarity, little planting will occur this week, leaving the state well behind schedule.
"We should be a quarter planted by now; it's all very late," Ribas told DTN.
The good news is that weather forecasts indicate substantial rains will arrive in the middle of next week, which should be the precursor to more regular rains through the rest of the month.
"The rain situation should be normalized from Tuesday of next week," forecast Marco Antonio dos Santos, meteorologist at the local Somar weather service.
The precipitation will come too late for some of the crop that has already been planted, and some replanting is expected in most parts of the state.
But overall, if the rains arrive next week, the early dry spell should have little impact on yield potential, said Ribas.
CROP PLANS MESSED UP
The dry weather has already messed up everyone's crop planning, though.
Farmers who need to plant beans before Oct. 10 to allow time for a cotton crop from January next year are having to rethink.
Meanwhile, those who want to plant second-crop corn in February will also have to rush soybean planting, again, assuming the forecast rain materializes.
"Every day that the corn is planted later, the lower its yield potential. With prices so low, farmers need as higher yields as possible," said Ribas.
The other issue is the concentration of the crop, which will make output more susceptible to single weather events, particularly heavy rain during one week of the harvest season.
The dry weather will help establish caterpillar populations, which will increase the need for spraying. On the other hand, it will impede the spread of the Asian rust fungus.
"It's a very delicate situation," said Ribas.
Brazilian soybean output is pegged to rise by around 10% to 92 million to 96 million metric tons (mmt) in the 2014-15 season.
Alastair Stewart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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