The dryness which has ravaged Argentina’s wheat crop, and prompted farmers to scrap sowings of early corn, is affecting soybeans too, slowing plantings of the oilseed to less than half the usual pace.

While Argentine growers managed to sow 1.2m hectares of soybeans over the past week, this left sowings still at only 19.4% complete, the Buenos Aires grains exchange said.

That compares with the 39.3% progress achieved as of a year ago, and the five-year average of 40.2% sowings completion.

The exchange blamed the lag on “the low surface water availability in a large part of the centre of the agricultural area”.

‘Will continue to limit progress’

Indeed, “the lack of surface moisture continues to delay soybean planting work,” the exchange said, foreseeing the prospect of a further delay.

“The lack of surface moisture and the absence of rainfall in the short-term forecast, which would allow the current scenario to be reversed, will continue to limit planting progress.”

The lag is provoking questions over whether Argentina’s farmers – having ditched significant wheat area to a drought which has also prompted them to switch some early corn area to soybeans – will curtail sowings of the oilseed for 2022-23 as well.

Area threat?

Dr Michael Cordonnier, the respected South America crop analyst, said: “I do not see why farmers would want to cut back on their soybean acreage” given a government push for the crop evident in September’s “soy dollar” scheme, which allowed a four-week window for farmer sales at a favourable exchange rate, and talk of a further programme.

“Having said that, if parts of Argentina have a severe drought, then maybe they might not plant all their intended soybeans.”

Such a move could leave some areas unseeded altogether.

“Farmers may switch some of their corn to soybeans because soybeans are more tolerant to dry weather than corn, but if farmers plant less corn and less soybeans, I do not know what the alternative would be,” Dr Cordonnier said.

Corn lag

The exchange forecasts Argentina’s 2022-23 soybean sowings at 16.7m hectares, up by 400,000 hectares year on year, reflecting in part a cut in corn planting plans thanks to drought.

Argentine growers, who plant their corn in two tranches –separated by a late November-early December gap to cut the threat of losses to peak summer heat – have allocated less than one-quarter of corn to early crop this time.

It reported corn sowings at 23.6% complete, after progress of just 0.4 points in two weeks, reflecting the divide between early and late plantings.

On average, Argentine growers have seeded 36.9% of their corn by now.

Wheat harvest

The exchange estimated the harvest of Argentina’s 2022-23 wheat crop at 12.5% complete, up by 2.5 points week on week, but well behind the average pace of 31.6% by now.

The lag “is due to the delays in the sowings during the planting window, which generated delays in the phenology of the crop”, said the exchange, maintaining at 12.4m tonnes its forecast for Argentina’s wheat production – 10.0m tonnes below last season’s result.