LITTLE ROCK — The number of Arkansas acres planted in rice, cotton, sorghum and soybean were all expected to rise in 2014, with declines seen for corn and winter wheat, according to the Prospective Plantings report issued by the National Agricultural Statistics Service on Monday.
• Corn — NASS estimated 600,000 acres planted in 2014, down from 880,000 acres planted last year and 855,000 harvested.
• Cotton — The estimate for 2014 is 340,000 acres, up from last year’s 310,000.
• Rice — The estimates for rice clocked in at 1.521 million acres, up from 1.076 million acres in 2013.
• Sorghum — The estimate for Arkansas was 140,000 acres, up from 130,000 in 2013.
• Soybeans — The estimates were also up to 3.35 million acres for 2014, compared to 3.260 million acres planted in 2013.
• Winter wheat — Planted in the fall 2013, acres were pegged at 440,000, well down from the 680,000 planted in the fall of 2012.
• Sweet potato acreage in Arkansas was expected to remain the same as the previous two seasons at 4,000.
“Today’s report confirms what we were gathering all winter at our county meetings” with Arkansas crop producers, said Scott Stiles, extension economist with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Unlike last year, the economic incentive to plant corn is much lower, making competing crops more attractive.
The 2014 corn acreage is projected at 600,000 acres, well below last year’s 880,000 and even further below 2013 if you consider how many corn acres would have been planted absent adverse planting conditions. Last March, Arkansas growers intended to plant 1 million acres of corn.
Higher prices saw corn become a rising star for Arkansas farmers, but the market has cooled, according to extension experts in corn and cotton.
“Overall, the corn figure is going to be down compared to last year,” said Jason Kelley, extension wheat and feed grains specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “Grain prices have come down from 2013, so a drop in acres was expected” still acreage is estimated to be above our 10-year average.
Tom Barber, extension weed scientist and former cotton specialist, said lower prices for corn may be sending some acres back to cotton.
“The new crop prices are still around 80 cents,” Barber said. “I think the difference will be in the corn prices – what it is now versus what it was. A lot of these corn acres are going back to cotton.”
Barber said he expected the biggest increase in cotton acres to be south of I-40.
The majority of the cotton acres were in the north anyway, but it might be up just a tick in the north,” he said.
“Today’s report also indicated that 2014 cotton acreage would increase a modest 30,000 acres,” Stiles said. “At our county meetings we saw indications that our southern Arkansas producers intended to increase cotton acreage this year.
“The southern half of the state in particular had record cotton yields in 2013,” he said. “That may be a factor, but more importantly is the fact that cotton’s net return per acre is marginally improved versus corn as compared to last year.”
Arkansas’ estimated peanut crop was not included in this year’s report, though a slight decline was expected.
However, “peanut shellers are still shelling 2012 peanuts so, there are an excess of peanuts in storage,” said Travis Faske, extension plant pathologist who works closely with the state’s peanut growers. “Given the high supply, demand is low and so are the contract prices … Arkansas peanut producers will scale back on the acres they plant.”
Faske expected acreage to hover around 10,000 acres for the 2015 growing season.
Kelley, who also works with the state’s grain sorghum growers said, “The rise of grain sorghum was due to several factors including good prices, increased ability to control glyphosate-tolerant pigweeds with grain sorghum and more marketing opportunities.”
Soybean acreage rises
The numbers are no surprise for Jeremy Ross, extension soybean specialist.
“From discussion with many growers during the winter meeting season, many indicated that they would increase soybean and rice acreage, and decrease corn acreage,” Ross said. “ In 2013, Arkansas soybean producers planted 3.26 million acres. My guess for 2014 is planted acreage will be between 3.3 and 3.4 million acres.
“However, this is all depending on the weather conditions in the next our weeks. If we see a wet weather pattern, and corn planting is delayed, we may see a few more soybean acres. From talks with many of the seed companies, soybean seed supply is tight on some of the more popular varieties, but we should have enough seed to plant this year’s soybean crop.
Jarrod Hardke, extension rice specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said the USDA estimates are “right in line with university expectations.”
Hardke said medium grain acreage was going to be a fluid situation this spring and would be determined by seed supply. Weather would also be a determining factor in shifting acres, he said.
“Rice acreage came in on the high end of expectations today,” Stiles said. “ Our budgets have favored rice all winter and the growers confirmed that.”
Weather vs. prices
“NASS conducted its survey for today’s report during the first two weeks of March and it reflects grower’s intentions at that time,” Stiles said. “I think commodity prices will have a very limited impact from here forward on what growers plant. Weather will now have the most influence.
“The month of March did not provide for a rapid start to 2014 planting,” he said. ”April will have to be a lot more cooperative for growers to reach their corn and rice planting intentions and not alter today’s outlook.”
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Mary Hightower is with the U of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.