Planting with tractor in bare soil. 1540x800 oticki/ThinkstockPhotos

Mid-South cotton, rice acres expected to jump

USDA releases 2018 planting intentions report

The year’s opening planting intentions report from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistic Service was released Thursday (March 29) morning. According to the report, winter wheat and soybean acres should hold steady from 2017 levels.

On the plus side of the ledger, nationwide, cotton acres are expected to rise 7 percent, rice acres will be up 9 percent and corn will be up 5 percent.

The state breakdowns for Mid-South 2018 corn shows:

  • Arkansas – 650,000 acres up from 620,000.
  • Louisiana – 450,000 acres down from 500,000.
  • Mississippi – 490,000 acres down from 520,000.
  • Tennessee – 750,000 acres, which is the same as 2017.

The USDA, says Erick Larson, Mississippi State University grains specialist, “is pretty conservative on estimates. I’d expect we’ll be even lower than their estimate when it comes down to it. The Delta is pretty progressive in crop selection when it comes to commodity prices. … We expect to have lower corn acreage this year than in 2017.”

Right now, Mississippi has “some very wet fields and we’re holding our breath. Hopefully, that’ll work itself out and we won’t have long-term soil saturation associated with the rains moving through now.”

Will the lost corn acres go to soybeans? Cotton?

“Probably both,” says Larson. “I expected corn acres would be down — primarily in the Delta. A lot of the corn acres are more stable in the Hill region.”

Meanwhile, Mississippi wheat acres are pegged at 50,000 — up 11 percent from 2017.

“I don’t think wheat will be up,” says Larson. “It’s hard to find much wheat that’s been planted. I’ve gotten a few calls about management, but we’re at historically low levels for both wheat and grain sorghum acreage. There just isn’t much interest in those relative to the primary summer row-crops.”

As in much of the Mid-South, the early planting season in Mississippi has been stop-and-go. “It’s wet now. We had our first good week of planting (the week of March 19). A lot of key areas made significant progress until the rain arrived in the last couple of days.

“Between March 16 and 18, we also had rains in some parts of the state. In areas with lighter, sandier soils that hadn’t gotten those rains, planting started around March 21 and proceed until yesterday.

“USDA says Mississippi went from 6 percent corn planted (the week of March 19) to 28 percent planted this week. But for much of that time we’ve had cloudy weather so there wasn’t very good drying conditions.”

The state breakdown for long-grain rice:

  • Arkansas – 1.15 million acres up from 995,000.
  • Louisiana – 380,000 acres up from 370,000.
  • Mississippi – 120,000 acres up from 115,000.
  • Missouri – 210,000 acres up from 160,000.

For medium-grain:

  • Arkansas – 180,000 acres up from 165,000.
  • Louisiana – holding steady from 2017 at 30,000 acres.
  • Missouri – also holding steady from 2017 at 9,000 acres.

“For total acres, I think they’re in the neighborhood,” says Jarrod Hardke, Arkansas Extension rice specialist. “I thought NASS would have Arkansas total rice acres at 1.35 million acres. They have us at 1.33 million and I agree that’s in range.

“Soybeans still have things in flux. Prices are good but people are a bit leery because of the concerns about trade with China and whatnot.”

However, Hardke’s expectation for Arkansas medium-grain acres is higher than USDA has listed. “Everything is still subject to shuffle, though. On the medium-grain side, we planted 145,000 acres (in 2016) and 160,000 acres (in 2017). Right now, to my knowledge, most of the medium-grain rice in on-farm storage is gone. And the old crop was bought for a nice price. So, I’ve been thinking the state will have about 225,000 acres of medium-grain this year. If we’ve exhausted our supply, there should be a rebound in acres.”

State breakdown for 2018 soybeans:

  • Arkansas – 3.6 million acres up from 3.53 million.
  • Louisiana – 1.32 million acres up from 1.27 million.
  • Mississippi – 2.2 million acres up from 2.19 million.
  • Tennessee – 1.6 million acres down from 1.69 million.

State breakdown for cotton:

  • Arkansas – 480,000 acres up from 445,000.
  • Louisiana – 180,000 acres down from 220,000.
  • Mississippi – 580,000 acres down from 630,000.
  • Missouri – 345,000 acres up from 305,000.
  • Tennessee – 350,000 acres up from 345,000.

Bill Robertson, Arkansas Extension cotton specialist, thinks Arkansas cotton acres could be higher than the USDA estimate.

“When you have really good yields one year you’ll see a bump up in acres the next,” says Robertson. “At one time, I thought we’d be close to 500,000 acres but not bust that number. But I’m getting calls from people who’ve not had cotton on their farm since the 1970s who are considering it now.”

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