Cotton acreage also expected to decline due to falling prices.
Planting has already been halted in the Mississippi Delta region due to heavy rains and soggy fields, but agronomists are not expecting a mass shift out of corn and into other crops—at least not yet.
“I’m sure farmers wish the weather was a little drier, but there’s still time for corn. We could start planting again soon,” said Larry Falconer, economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. If heavy rains continue, though, some acres intended for corn could shift into soybeans.
Louisiana State University extension agronomist Kylie Miller said areas of Louisiana are facing the same challenges this planting season as Mississippi.
“If it continues to rain, we’ll see a shift. It would force corn farmers to plant more of a different crop,” said Miller. “Depending on how farms are set up, it could be more soybeans or more cotton.”
Arkansas producers are also anxious to get into their fields to plant corn.
“Most years we have quite a bit of corn planted by now, and in some years, some people are done planting corn by now,” noted Jason Kelley, extension agronomist with the University of Arkansas. “The farther south you go, the more nervous people are starting to get. I don’t know a single field in Arkansas that has been planted to corn.”
If corn planting is not completed by April 1, farmers in southern Arkansas could switch to soybeans, which has long been the state’s dominant crop
Rice acres are likely to remain steady with last year in Mississippi, while cotton acreage in the Delta will decline. Expectations are for a 15 percent decrease in Mississippi cotton acres.
“Cotton prices have dropped pretty dramatically,” said Falconer. Last week cotton futures were in the low 62-cents-per-pound range. To complete with corn and soybeans this year, Falconer calculated that cotton would need to be priced in the low to mid-70 cent range.
Acres that shift out of cotton will likely be planted to soybeans or possibly grain sorghum, according to Falconer.
Had it not been for last year’s infestation of the sugar cane aphid in Louisiana, Mississippi, and southern Arkansas, grain sorghum would have been a top choice of even more producers this year due to strong exports.
“There is quite a bit more interest in grain sorghum,” said Kelley. “We could have 300,000 acres of sorghum this year. If it keeps raining, it will be interesting to see whether more acres are planted to sorghum than corn in Arkansas,” he said.
Last year, Arkansas growers planted 170,000 acres of sorghum and 500,000 acres of corn, according to USDA.
“One thing everyone is worried about is that everything will be planted in a two-week period,” said Kelley. “Then it will all have to be harvested at the same time.”
Spring Planting 2015: Delta
States: Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana
Top Contender: Soybeans
Sleeper: Grain sorghum
Factors to Watch: If rain continues in the Delta states, look for even more soybeans and possibly more grain sorghum and less corn.
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