Rainfall last week boosted planting of the 2007-2008 soybean crop in areas of central Argentina, but dryness continued to prevent planting and threaten yields in central Cordoba, southeast Buenos Aires and elsewhere, the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange said in its weekly crop report on Monday.

The showers led the exchange to raise its forecast for soybean planted area this season to a record 16.9 million hectares (41.75 million acres), up from a previous estimate of 16.8 million. Farmers are seen abandoning corn that was badly damaged due to lack of rain and November frosts.

As of Jan. 4, farmers had planted 91% of the 16.9 million hectares, according to the exchange. The planting pace is 4.5 percentage points behind the pace at this time last year.

The exchange said the soybean crop in the most important growing areas remained in good or very good condition as plants started to pollinate. But it cautioned that rains were needed to safeguard future development.

Rain in parts of Cordoba province brought some relief to the corn crop last week and helped producers restart planting that had been delayed by dryness for more than a month, but final yields will likely be hurt by the dry weather, the exchange said.

Rainfall boosted crop condition in the district of Marcos Juarez in Cordoba, the traditional center of corn production. Even so, conditions are less than desired and yields expected to be 10% to 15% less than hoped for, the exchange said.

In southern Santa Fe province – Argentina's No. 3 corn producer – some yields have been halved as a result of the weather in recent weeks. Patchier conditions were reported in Buenos Aires province, but lower yields are also feared in many areas.

As of Jan. 4, farmers had planted 92.5% of the 2007-2008 corn crop, 2.4 percentage points behind the pace a year earlier, the exchange said. The exchange estimates 3.2 million hectares (7.9 million acres) will be planted to this season, 11.5% more than in 2006-2007.

Editor’s note: Richard Brock, The Corn And Soybean Digest's Marketing Editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.