SAO PAULO: Brazil’s Agriculture Ministry has approved 48 requests from Mato Grosso soy growers who want to start planting their new crop before the fallow period ends on Sept. 15, according to a statement sent to Reuters on Friday.

During the period, fields are left fallow to prevent the spread of disease such as soybean rust. The ministry’s authorization came in response to a request from the Mato Grosso Association of Cotton Producers (Ampa).

According to Ampa, this year’s El Nino weather pattern can cut rains sooner, putting crops such as cotton and corn - which are planted after soybeans are harvested - at risk in Mato Grosso state. Early planting authorizations for commercial purposes are controversial and opposed by Mato Grosso’s crop agency Indea.

According to information on Indea’s website, there is no “legal provision” for such permissions. Critics of an early start to the soy sowing work say it raises sanitary risks, as the fallow period is meant to protect the soil and plants from plagues.

Planting soy sooner means some farmers in Mato Grosso, at the heart of Brazil’s soy country, could harvest their crop before Christmas, which is unusual.

The agriculture ministry said it expects to receive more soy farmers’ requests to start planting early. The beginning of soybean planting depends on the arrival of spring rains, said Cleiton Gauer, the superintendent for farmer-backed Mato Grosso Institute of Agricultural Economics (Imea).

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