Editor's note: What should you expect in USDA's March 31 Prospective Plantings report? AgWeb.com editors are providing you in-depth looks at six key regions that will affect this year’s acreage mix.
While lower commodity prices might lead some eastern Corn Belt farmers to plant soybeans instead of corn, the overall acreage mix will remain consistent with that of 2013, experts say.
Here is an overview of expectations in three of the region’s states—Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio.
Planting in Kentucky generally begins in earnest in early April, and that is expected to happen this year assuming favorable weather and soil conditions, says Chad Lee, grain crops Extension agronomist, University of Kentucky.
"Some years, we may get as much as 100,000 acres of corn planted before April," Lee explains. "It’s hard to imagine now given the rain/snow mix outside, but April 1 is still possible this year."
The acreage mix for most farmers is expected to remain about the same year-over-year, he says. In 2013, USDA data show, corn acreage fell about 3% to 1.6 million acres; soybean acres increased 1% to 1.5 million; and wheat acres grew 15% to 680,000 acres.
"Many farmers are committed to crop rotation here," Lee notes. "We may see a shift to soybeans on some land with yearly leases."
Persistently low commodity prices heading into 2015 could result in a larger acreage shift.
"For 2014, I think most producers are willing to risk lower returns for a single year with the goals of maintaining good soil quality and managing familiar logistics," he concludes.
Late planting is in the forecast in Michigan, where weather has been a deciding factor.
"With the amount of snow pack still on the ground and the near complete ice-coverage on the lake, the expectation is for a late spring and consequently a later-than-normal start to spring planting in 2014," explains Kurt Thelen, agronomist, Michigan State University.