Brazilian officials cautioned over the growing threat posed by leafhopper pests to corn yields as they downgraded their forecast for the country’s production, reducing hopes for exports too.

Conab, the Brazilian crop bureau, said that it was not only a further lack of rain which had curtailed the recovery in the country’s corn production from last season’s drought hit total.

In some states, “in addition to the drought, there were reports attacks on crops of spittlebugs”, or leafhoppers – an insect pest which undermines yields both through directly feeding on plants and through spreading disease.

Sergio De Zen, Conab’s director of agricultural information, said that “two seasons ago there was a record of leafhoppers in cold climate regions.

“Since then, the plague has appeared more frequently.”

For next season’s harvest, “producers need to pay close attention to the emergence of this pest in order to try to better control it”.

Corn cut

The comments came as Conab downgraded by 1.42m tonnes to 113.3m tonnes its estimate for Brazil’s 2021-22 corn production – although this still represents a record high, and a recovery of 21.18m tonnes year on year.

The revision reflected in the main reduced expectations for the newly-finished safrinha harvest, downgraded by 1.29m tonnes to 86.12m tonnes, thanks to a weaker estimate for Parana – one of the states the bureau cited as seeing yields “affected” by leafhoppers.

The weaker production estimate was reflected in a 500,000-tonne cut, to 37.0m tonnes, in the forecast for Brazilian corn exports in 2021-22 (as ends in January next year).

This would represent a 40% jump year on year, although remain below the high go 41.07m tonnes set three seasons ago.

Soybeans raised

By contrast, the bureau lifted its forecast for soybean exports this calendar year, by 1.97m tonnes to 75.23m tonnes, as it lifted its supply estimates, after regional surveys suggested biggest harvests both this year and in 2021.

Last year’s harvest was upgraded by 1.23m tonnes to 138.2m tonnes, with the dryness-affected 2022 crop upgraded by 1.50m tonnes to 125.0m tonnes.

Conab also lifted hopes for the country’s 2022 wheat harvest, by 205,000 tonnes to 9.37m tonnes, meaning it is expected to set a record by an even bigger margin than previously thought.

“There was a slight delay in sowing in the south of the country due to excessive rainfall, but conditions are favorable for the development of crops.”