U.S. cotton acres are up 5 percent over 2000, corn acres are down 4 percent, rice acres are up 6 percent, and wheat acres are down 5 percent, according to estimates from USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

In the agency's June 29 report, cotton plantings are pegged at 16.3 million acres; 16.1 million of that is upland, 235,000 Pima (a whopping 38 percent increase over last year).

Biotech varieties — insect resistant, herbicide resistant, and stacked gene varieties — accounted for 69 percent of all cotton planted this year, up from 61 percent last year.

Delta states boosted cotton plantings by 22 percent to 4.79 million acres, while Southeast growers planted 3.8 million acres, up 7 percent from last year. Southwest plantings are down 3 percent, while California-Arizona upland plantings dropped 15 percent due to a combination of low prices, high electricity costs, and the uncertainty of adequate water supplies.

Western changes

Arizona's acreage is unchanged from last year, at 280,000, while California plantings dropped to 620,000 from 775,000. Arizona Pima acreage is 6,000 this year, compared to 5,000 last year, but California zoomed from 145,000 last year to 205,000 this year.

Insect resistant Bt cotton varieties accounted for 13 percent of this year's U.S. plantings, compared to 15 percent last year. Herbicide resistant varieties totaled 32 percent, up from last year's 26 percent. Stacked gene varieties totaled 24 percent of planted acres, up from 20 percent last year.

Rice acreage is estimated at 3.25 million acres, 6 percent more than last year, but 8 percent less than 1999. Long grain rice accounts for 81 percent of the plantings, medium grain 18 percent (down 27 percent), and short grain plantings are down 31 percent, representing less than 1 percent of the total U.S. rice crop.

California growers planted only 7,000 acres of long grain rice this year, compared to 9,000 last season, and reduced plantings of medium grain to 445,000 acres, compared to 507,000 last year. Plantings of short grain are at 23,000 acres, down from 34,000 last year.

Nationwide, corn plantings are estimated at 76.1 million acres, down 4 percent from last year, with 69.3 million to be harvested for grain, down 5 percent. Reductions from March intentions were due mainly to persistent rains in the western corn belt and Texas.

Less western corn

This is the lowest corn acreage nationally since 1995, when excessive rains also limited plantings.

California growers planted 520,000 acres of corn this year, down from 540,000 in 2000; plantings in Arizona are at 60,000, up from 56,000 last year.

Winter wheat acres for harvest is now estimated at 31.7 million acres, down 1 percent from the June 1 forecast and 10 percent below 2000. This is the smallest area harvested for grain since 1933.

California has 605,000 acres of wheat this year, up slightly from last year's 605,000, while Arizona has 94,000, compared to 92,000 last year.

Hay acres in California this year are up slightly, at 1.54 million (1.530 last year); Arizona has 260,000 acres (247,000 last year).

Sugar beet acreage in California this year dropped sharply to 45,000, less than half of last year's 98,000.

e-mail: hembree_brandon@intertec.com