Consistently cold springs combined with a higher profit potential are swaying farmers in Ohio, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania to plant soybeans this spring.
While acreage mixes are expected to be similar to 2014, farmers in in the Northeast’s major crop-producing states will likely favor soybeans. The area has historically planted more corn than soybeans, but experts expect corn acres to decrease at the price of more soybean acres this year.
Since they can’t predict prices, farmers in the area typically determine their crop mix by the best agronomic options, says Jim Hilker, a Michigan State University ag economist. That has led to a pretty consistent rotation of corn and soybeans.
But, depending on what comes out of the March 31 Prospective Plantings report, farmers may alter their plans. “Farmers, during the past five years, have been extremely nimble,” Hilker says. “Their fertilizer systems don’t tie them in so tight to a crop anymore. So we may see some marginal changes.”
Here’s a look at four key states in the region.
The Buckeye State has always been more of a soybean state than a corn state, says Laura Lindsey, a state soybean and wheat Extension specialist at Ohio State University. In 2014, that really rang true, as farmers dedicated 1 million more acres to soybeans than corn. Soybean acres topped 4.7 million acres, while corn acres came in at 3.7 million.
“I think we’ll have more soybeans acres than corn again in 2015, since we traditionally have continuous soybean acres,” Lindsey says.
The higher profit potential of soybeans was a main driver for the crop gobbling so many acres, Lindsey says, but the other is weather. “Our springs have been so wet lately, so a lot of farmers can’t plant early,” she says. “They would rather plant soybeans in June rather than corn.”
For the past three years, Michigan farmers have planted right around 2.6 million acres of corn. Soybeans have also stayed fairly steady, at around 2 million acres. Wheat acres have swung a little, and came in at 580,000 acres in 2014.
Hilker doesn’t expect the 2015 acres to be dramatically different from 2014. “We might see a little bit of a shift from corn to soybeans,” he says. “It will be whatever crop gives farmers a better return.”
The biggest factor will be when the planting season starts and ends, according to Hilker.
Corn and hay are the Keystone State’s top crops. In 2014 corn acres topping 1.4 million acres and hay acres surpassing 1.3 million acres. Soybean acres totaled 590,000 acres.
“Due to current prices, my guess would be that corn would drop to 1.3 million acres and soybeans would increase to 620,000 acres,” says Greg Roth, corn specialist at Pennsylvania State University. “Hay acres would also increase, to 1.4 million, while our other crops would stay the same.”
In 2014, New York farmers planted 1.2 million acres of corn and 330,000 acres of soybeans. Hay acres consumed 1.5 million acres and wheat acres came in at 110,000.
Soybeans will likely grab more acres, to the tune of 400,000, says Bill Cox, crop specialist with Cornell University. He expects hay acres to also increase, but corn acres to be a little less than last year. Wheat acres should be steady.
“The dairy guys will keep hay in the rotation longer (four versus three years,) and cash croppers will substitute beans for corn,” Cox says.
Both weather and prices (for both grain and inputs) remains top-of-mind for New York farmers.
Spring Planting 2015: Northeast
States: Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York
Top Contender: Soybeans
Factors to Watch: Spring weather is always a concern in this part of the country. While farmers would prefer to plant in April or May, the last few years have delivered cold and wet conditions.
What do you expect to plant this spring? Give us your Crop Comments and talk with other farmers on the AgWeb discussion boards.