Harvesting of early planted soybeans is already underway in Brazil’s northernmost growing areas and crop conditions remain favorable across most of the country’s growing regions, with planting now winding down in the southernmost growing state of Rio Grande do Sul after earlier delays due to heavy rainfall.

Soybean harvesting reportedly started early last week in the district of Lucas do Rio Verde in northern Mato Grosso state, which is perennially among the earliest districts to plant and to harvest.

Good soil moisture allowed producers in northern Mato Grosso to start planting even earlier than usual this year and farmers there are expected to harvest more soybeans in January and February than ever before this year.

About 2.2 million hectares (5.44 million acres) of soybeans are expected to be harvested in the first two months of 2010, up from 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) in the same period this year, according to Mato Grosso's Soybean Growers Association (Aprosoja).

Producers in Brazil’s large center-west soybean belt have increasingly been shifting to shorter season soybeans because those varieties are less susceptible to Asian soybean rust and because they can plant a winter crop of corn or cotton in the same fields. Attractive premiums offered by exporters for January delivery have also provided incentive to plant early maturing soybeans.

In Brazil’s No. 2 soybean state of Parana, regular December rains have kept the crop in generally good condition. Crop development across Parana ranges from vegetative stage to the pod-filling stage.

Parana’s Department of Rural Economy, DERAL, on Dec. 14 estimated the state’s main 2009-2010 soybean crop at 13.351 million metric tons (mmt), up 43% from the 9.328 mmt harvested last year when drought hurt production.

In the No. 3 soybean state of Rio Grande do Sul, soybean planting was 85% complete as of Dec. 23, vs. a norm of 93%, according the state division of EMATER, Brazil’s rural extension department.

Crops are generally developing normally, although excessive rains caused some "sporadic" germination problems, EMATER said in a Dec. 23 report.

If weather remains stable, the state’s intended acreage of 3.97 million hectares could get planted despite earlier delays due to heavy November rains, the department said.

EMATER expects favorable weather conditions in early 2010 to support good crop production. Rainfall during January, February and March is expected to be "a little above the historical average," which should result in above-average production.

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