Federico Rolle estimates drought will halve his corn yields

The rains have arrived at my most productive fields in Bigand and Tortugas with 50mm on 11 January and 40mm on 24 January, respectively, but the drought has left its mark.

While corn (181ha) and soybeans (386ha) are affected, it is in the corn where losses are estimated to be the highest, at 50% and it’s irreversible as it suffered the effects of water shortages during the flowering period resulting in small ears or ears without grains. With average yields, that could equate to 4-5t/ha and this just covers 60-70% of the production costs, including rent.

In the case of soybeans, expectations are recovering despite the crop being severely hit by Helicoverpa gelotopeon (bollworm) and Tetranychus urticae (red spider mite). Rain expected in February will be essential during the critical grain filling period. But up to now the losses from drought are estimated at about 20%.

I have taken the decision not to plant the 1,350ha in Bandera despite some rains in recent days, as we have already passed the optimum planting date (December) for both sorghum and soybeans. The risk that current crops will be affected by frost early next April is high, and in my case I have decided (along with the owners of the field) not to take any more risks in a year seeing “the worst drought Argentina has seen in the last 100 years”.

In general, farmers have less income to pay their bills, because yields will be low (or zero in many cases) and it will impact on next season.

Input companies, agricultural machinery distributors, consultants and specialists of the rental market farms are seeing a slowdown in the sale of inputs and producers are finding refinancing more difficult when renegotiation leasing.

On top of this, there have been difficulties selling the harvested wheat, so these farmers have no cash to pay their debts and this season’s expenses.

The four organisations representing farmers are lobbying the government to review export taxes, as it doesn’t seem reasonable to maintain them when farmers are fighting for their own survival.

Farmer Focus: Federico Rolle

More Arable Farmer Focus columns

See more