U.S. producers, taken aback by high nitrogen costs and spurred on by good soybean prices, intend to plant 18 percent more soybean acres this spring, according to USDA’s March 31 Prospective Plantings Report. The higher acreage comes mostly at the expense of corn, down 8 percent from last year.

Cotton plantings for 2008 are expected to total 9.39 million acres, 13 percent below last year.

Corn growers intend to plant 86 million acres in 2008, down 8 percent from last year when corn planted area was the highest since 1944. Corn planting so far this year has been somewhat thwarted by wet weather in the south and expectations for continued wet weather in the Midwest. At an average yield of 154 bushels per acre, 2008 corn production would again fall below consumption, pushing supplies to the lowest levels in years.

Despite the decrease in intended plantings, corn acreage is expected to remain at historically high levels as the corn price outlook remains strong due in part to the continued expansion in ethanol production.

Soybean producers intend to plant 74.8 million acres in 2008, up 18 percent from last year, but 1 percent below the record high acreage in 2006. Acreage increases are expected in all states except West Virginia, which is unchanged from last year. The largest increases are expected in Iowa and Nebraska, up 1.25 million acres and 1.2 million acres from 2007, respectively. Increases of at least 800,000 acres are also expected in Indiana, Minnesota, and South Dakota. If realized, the planted acreage in Kansas, New York, and Pennsylvania will be the largest on record.

Rice producers intend to plant about the same acreage in 2008, 2.77 million acres as in 2007, 2.76 million acres. Sorghum producers intend to reduce acres from 7.7 million acres to 7.4 million acres.

All wheat planted area is estimated at 63.8 million acres, up 6 percent from 2007. The 2008 winter wheat planted area, at 46.8 million acres, is 4 percent above last year and up slightly from the previous estimate. Of this total, about 32.5 million acres are hard red winter, 10.7 million acres are soft red winter, and 3.63 million acres are white winter.

Area planted to other spring wheat for 2008 is expected to total 14.3 million acres, up 8 percent from 2007. Of this total, about 13.6 million acres are hard red spring wheat. The intended durum planted area for 2008 is 2.63 million acres, up 22 percent from the previous year.

email: erobinson@farmpress.com