The safrinha corn harvest in Brazil’s top growing state has got off to a historically-quick start – and just as well, with cold temperatures threatening to bring an early end to the growing season.

Farmers in Mato Grosso had as of Friday harvested 1.2% of the 6.32m hectares of their safrinha corn, state research institute Imea said.

That represents the fastest start on record, Imea said, with harvesting typically yet to start.

This year’s progress is about a week ahead of 2021, when a slow planting season was reflected in a late harvest – exposing the crop indeed to seasonally dry conditions which were particularly extreme last year, and viewed as enhanced by La Nina.

Bean bonus

Mato Grosso’s safrinha corn crop – which is planted early in the calendar year on land vacated by the soybean harvest – accounts for more more than one-third of Brazil’s overall corn output, making its fortunes particularly sensitive to markets.

This year’s timely start to corn harvesting reflects “the early sowing of soybeans in the state due to the good volumes of rain that were observed” ahead of the opening of the Mato Grosso soy seeding season, in September, Imea said.

Rapid soybean plantings meant an early soybean harvest, of which “safrinha corn was one of the beneficiaries” in that it allowed growers to get ahead on sowings of the grain.

Nearly 83% of this year’s Mato Grosso safrinha corn seedings were completed within the ideal planting window, which closed on February 25.

‘Historically cold’

The early start to harvest cuts the chance of the crop falling foul of the coming of winter, which appears to have started particularly early this year in Brazil, where temperatures proved “historically cold” last week, South America crop expert Dr Michael Cordonnier said.

“Even though the ‘winter season’ is just getting started in Brazil, there have already been numerous outbreaks of cold weather and patchy frost” in southern areas, he said.

“Regions of south eastern Mato Grosso experienced a frost last Friday morning, which is extremely rare, with other areas of the state seeing “frost on the windshields… something that only old timers can ever recall seeing.”

‘Dodged a bullet’

However, he added that while Brazil witnessed some “record-low temperatures last week”, there was “no season-ending killing frost”.

“I would say that the safrinha corn dodged a bullet, at least this time,” Dr Cordonnier said, although the crop “will still be vulnerable to frost for about another month”.

Some other crops, such as sugar cane and coffee, will remain on frost alert through the winter, with July often bringing the biggest freeze threat, as last year.