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Grain crops see big 2007 value increases

MSU Extension Service

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Corn, wheat and grain sorghum in Mississippi posted triple-digit increases in 2007, and corn yielded near a record high as it topped cotton to reach an estimated value of $438 million.

Corn rose 309 percent in estimated value to $438 million in 2007, and joined soybeans in posting higher estimated values than cotton, which traditionally holds the No. 3 spot in Mississippi agriculture behind No. 1 poultry and No. 2 forestry. Wheat increased 514 percent to reach an estimated value of $93 million, and grain sorghum gained 942 percent on 2006 figures for an estimated 2007 value of $28 million.

John Anderson, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said these relatively large shifts in value of production can be explained by acreage changes.

“The value of corn production in 2007 surpassed all previous records on a combination of good yields, higher prices and large acreage,” Anderson said. “Wheat and grain sorghum values were sharply higher this year, mainly due to significantly larger plantings, and grain sorghum increased nearly tenfold from a very low level of planting in 2006.”

Anderson said prices for major row crops were much better in 2007 than in 2006, and corn, soybean and wheat prices at times challenged historic records.

Extension grain crops agronomist Erick Larson said prices have been improving for the past 12 months or more.

"Cotton prices have not followed that same trend, and our growers have been quick to swap acreage because of this market improvement for grain crops," Larson said.

Cotton acreage dropped about 45 percent statewide in 2007, and corn absorbed most of those acres. Corn went from 340,000 acres in 2006 to 960,000 acres in 2007, exceeding cotton acreage for the first time since 1958.

A sudden high interest in ethanol production helped further increase corn's value. The 2006 corn crop sold for an average of $2.85 a bushel, and projections are that the 2007 crop will sell for about $3.35 a bushel. The state's five-year average is about $2.30 a bushel.

Larson said the state had record yields in irrigated corn, and dry-land yields in the Delta were extremely high as well. The success of the Delta crop pushed the state to an estimated yield average of 135 bushels an acre, although that figure may improve enough to top the record 136 bushels an acre set in 2004. The state typically averages about 125 bushels an acre.

A substantial portion of the state's grain sorghum was grown in a double-cropping situation following winter wheat in 2007.

“Prices were good this year, and growers were willing to risk double-cropping last season,” Larson said, adding that more acres than normal were planted in full-season grain sorghum. “Yields were very good, particularly for the full-season grain sorghum.”

Mississippi growers planted 145,000 acres of grain sorghum in 2007, up from 85,000 acres in 2006. This crop averaged about 75,000 acres a year during the past decade, but in the last few years, acreage has been as low as 15,000. The high-acreage mark was set in 1985 at 650,000 acres of this grain.

 “Sorghum yields should be above average with about 85 bushels harvested per acre,” Larson said.

The 2006 sorghum crop sold for an average of $2.60 a bushel, and the 2007 crop moved up to an estimated $3 a bushel. The state's five-year average price is about $2.25 a bushel.

Wheat posted its impressive numbers on the strength of good yields on 370,000 acres harvested in 2007. Growers planted 85,000 acres of wheat in 2006, but acreage this decade has been significantly lower than the 200,000 acres planted on average in the 1990s, Larson said.

“The average yield was 56 bushels an acre, which was very good,” he said. “The state's five-year average is about 50 bushels an acre, and the record was 59 bushels an acre in 2006.”

Wheat's increased acreage was driven primarily by the increase in price. The 2006 wheat crop sold for an average of $3.52 a bushel, while the 2007 crop jumped to about $4.80 a bushel. The five-year average price for wheat is about $3.25 a bushel.

Released: December 13, 2007
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