It appears the pendulum has swung back the other way for sorghum. This crop enjoyed a large uptick in acres in 2016 – from 7.1 million acres to 8.5 million acres. But the latest estimates from USDA indicate sorghum is poised to lose all that ground back, and then some.
The projected 2016/17 acres will drop to 6.8 million acres, according to USDA. Some market fundamentals go far in explaining the reduction in acres, including higher stocks and lower prices. The 2016/17 estimated price range is $2.80 to $3.40 per bu., down from $3.31 a year ago and $4.03 two years ago.
Some other factors could prove obstacles, according to John Holman, associate professor of cropping systems at the Western Kansas Agricultural Research Center.
“With the challenges we have had recently with sugarcane aphid and weeds in sorghum, and with China backing away from buying sorghum, we might see a slight shift to more dryland corn acres,” he says.
Other obstacles are apparent, adds Paul Hay, University of Nebraska Extension educator. In the southeast part of the state where he works and lives, Hay has seen sorghum acres slink from 174,000 acres in 1980 all the way down to 3,000. He ticks off the reasons why this has happened.
“The profitability of corn is better,” he says. “Corn has become more drought tolerant. The upward yield potential is better with corn. There are better weed control options. The corn price is usually more favorable. Corn dries and stores easier. And the crop insurance flip from corn to milo (or reverse) in crop insurance is problematic.”
Hay is optimistic to share that some badly needed post grass options are coming online soon.
Other small grains, meantime, could see small gains in acres for 2017. According to USDA, barley acres could grow from 3 million to 3.6 million acres. Oats acres could also increase, from 2.8 million to 3.1 million acres.
The editors at AgWeb.com are taking a look at experts’ projections for a variety of commodities in 2017 to help you succeed and be profitable in the coming year. Tune in periodically over the next six weeks as we add outlooks for corn, wheat, cotton, cattle, machinery and more. Read all the outlook pieces here.