It seems like yesterday we were fighting the spring rains here in Bahia. Planting timelines and my patience were both being tested to the limit. But now, after the last 90 days of growing season and 71 in. of total rainfall, the crops in western Bahia look excellent. Our continued moisture and sunshine have kept us in a greenhouse-type growing environment that has been very good again this year. We'll still need another 40 days of rainfall for our youngest cotton to reach maturity, but the weather forecast looks good.
The wet weather this year has made our disease-fighting efforts a full-time job. It's normal for us to apply fungicide twice per year, and in the most extreme cases three times to combat soybean rust. We have only had to apply two applications thus far of strobilurin and triazole fungicides this year, but we have a neighbor who is applying his fifth application. This is the most I've ever heard of before, and I questioned him about the many applications since our farms are side by side.
It simply came down to poor management. He sprayed his first application after rust already set in, but he used a preventative fungicide so he did not eradicate active spores already on the plants. He had to come back with a curative to kill those spores.
Then he applied his third application soon after his second for fear he didn't get a good kill. The fourth followed 18 days later, which he thought would get him to maturity. But, he's still long on the growing season so now he is going in with numero cinco. It's a mistake that will cost him an extra $35/acre, and in the challenging environment we have today it may be the difference between red and black ink.
THE OTHER BATTLE this year has been white mold. While it has caused havoc for some, we've been very lucky. The importance of getting into a crop rotation even if it's every three or four years is our best bet for control. A neighbor on the other side of us has been beans on beans since 1993, and he has a complete mess on nearly 3,000 of 14,000 acres — a mess that will cut his yield about 30-50% on the affected area.
The corn crop looks good; it had a nice pollination period and looks to be pretty much in the bag. I won't say what our yields are going to be, but our Bt in general will be 10-15% better. It has looked great from the get go and as all producers can imagine, it's just so much easier to manage.
It's tough to say what the final estimates will be for Brazil this year; most are calling for 56-58 million metric tons of soybeans. Southern Brazil was affected by the drought early on, but it is a small production area. Mato Grosso had some early issues, but the first yield reports have been very positive, and it appears the huge area will pull its weight again. Bahia and north should be excellent, so one can assume the numbers will be pretty close.
At the 2008 Commodity Classic, I spoke to a producer who said, “Commodity prices have never been better, and I've never been so concerned before in my life.” Well, I'd say he pretty much hit the nail on the head with that one. Even though we probably won't have the high run-up in grains like in 2008, there's no doubt that 2009 will be just as interesting.