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The information presented on this page was originally released on March 31, 2003. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Planting intentions remain unpredictable
MISSISSIPPI STATE - Mississippi growers are attempting to plant the 2003 crops, but rains and wet fields may change crop intentions from corn to those with later planting dates, such as cotton and soybeans.
Another factor that may influence a change in plans is an increase in nitrogen costs.
Larry Oldham, soil specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said nitrogen prices are about $30 to $40 per ton higher than a year ago, but seem to be trending downward. Natural gas accounts for 70 to 80 percent of the costs in producing nitrogen fertilizer.
"Companies had suspended some production when natural gas prices spiked a few weeks ago. However, those units restarted after the natural gas price situation stabilized in mid-March," Oldham said. "The delays in corn plantings are helping nitrogen fertilizer supplies meet demands."
Alan Blaine, Extension soybean specialist, said soybeans are the only crop that does not need supplemental nitrogen.
"While they are the least expensive, out-of-pocket crop Mississippi farmers can grow, initial success is imperative in 2003," Blaine said.
"Seed supplies are tight this year. Growers need to do everything in their power to get a stand on the first planting. They won't be able to replant with the same variety and any replanting will just add to the cost," Blaine said. "Some fields will have added tillage costs due to the wet conditions during the last half of the harvest last fall."
Typically, about 80 percent of Mississippi's soybeans are planted in no-till or reduced till fields, Blaine said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's prospective plantings report released on March 31 predicts the soybean acreage in Mississippi to increase about 4 percent from the previous year to 1.5 million acres. John Anderson, Extension agricultural economist, said the state is bucking the national trend for a 1 percent decline. The report predicts 73.2 million U.S. acres, the lowest since 1998.
"When fuel prices are at this level, growers know that every pass across the field is going to be expensive," Anderson said. "Growers will be looking to minimize costs as they are making planting decisions."
Anderson said harvest-time futures prices on corn, rice, soybeans and cotton are all running higher than last year, but growers will still face challenges at the current levels.
The report predicts Mississippi's cotton acreage to increase 7 percent to 1.25 million acres, the largest increase of any of the state's major row crops. Will McCarty, Extension cotton specialist, said growers should have no problem hitting that mark.
"Prices have been favorable and the delays in planting corn will influence growers to plant cotton on fields they may have been considering for corn. Cotton also needs less nitrogen than corn," McCarty said.
Extension corn specialist Erick Larson said while nitrogen costs and planting conditions are presenting challenges, growers are hopeful for another year of high yields. The 2002 crop was five bushels short of the record 130 bushels per acre harvested in 2001.
"Mississippi growers have improved corn yields significantly in recent years. 1982 was the first year we reached 60 bushels per acre; now, we've doubled that," Larson said. "Growers are managing for yield potential."
The prospective plantings for Mississippi corn are even with last year at 550,000 acres. Arkansas is expected to increase corn plantings 30 percent, Alabama may be up 10 percent and Tennessee may increase 7 percent. Louisiana is the only state in the area decreasing (10 percent).
The USDA predicts Mississippi rice to remain near last year's plantings at 255,000 acres. Neighboring states are expected to follow the national trend of planting less rice: Arkansas may plant 6 percent less and Louisiana may decline 13 percent.