Nationally, the latest USDA-NASS planted acreage estimates show cotton down 11% from 2019. Wheat is also down, but only 2%. Soybean acreage is estimated to be 10% higher than last year and corn is up 3%.
Mid-South acreage shows similar trends. Cotton is down significantly across the region. Corn is mixed, likely the result of a wet planting season. Soybeans, rice and peanuts are up across the region. Wheat acreage is up in Arkansas and Tennessee but down in Mississippi.
NASS indicates all cotton planted area for 2020 is estimated at 12.2 million acres, down 11% from last year. Upland area is estimated at 12 million acres, down 11% from 2019. American Pima area is estimated at 195,000 acres, down 15% from 2019.
Scott Stiles, Extension economist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, cites COVID-19 as a contributing factor in cotton acreage decline.
"From January to March, cotton prices lost 23 cents," Stiles says. "The December 2020 futures went from trading at 73 cents in January of this year to trading at 50 cents by the end of March, a game changer for growers."
He says weather played a role, as well.
Bill Robertson, Extension cotton agronomist for the Division of Agriculture, says Arkansas cotton growers likely will not abandon the crop.
"Arkansas growers ended up planting as much as they did because a lot of guys and gals who grow cotton have invested in their infrastructure," Robertson said. "We’ve got new gins coming in. Even if you get a used round-module picker, you’ve got $400,000 to $500,000 invested. So, you need acres to run it on, just to justify the payment on that picker.
"Investing in cotton isn’t a short-term thing, it’s a long-term commitment," Robertson says. "The cotton market just hasn’t gotten its feet back under it yet. I think people are anticipating that it will be better next year."
"I believe we will fall far-short of the estimated 350,000 acres in Tennessee," says University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture Extension cotton specialist Tyson Raper.
For the Mid-South region, NASS estimates Arkansas cotton acreage dips from 620,000 in 2019 to 500,000 in 2020.
Louisiana cotton farmers cut from 270, 000 last year, to 180,000, a 26% decrease. "Markets and input costs are the problem," says LSU AgCenter agronomist Dan Fromme, Alexandria, La.
Mississippi cotton acreage is down from 710,000 to 520,000; Missouri drops from 380,000 to 310,000; and Tennessee acreage is off from 410,000 last year to 350,000.
Considering most of the state had a favorable planting season for cotton — I don’t think the crop was replaced out of necessity due to environmental factors," says Mississippi State University Extension cotton specialist Brian Pieralisi. "As prices dipped below 60 cents, I think some acres slipped due to production costs. It’s pretty simple, the math doesn’t work out. A high-yielding crop is a necessity to not lose money. Also, there are a lot of costs outside of straight production expenses."
Nationally, corn planted area for all purposes in 2020 is estimated at 92.0 million acres, up 3% or 2.31 million acres from last year. Compared with last year, planted acreage is expected to be up or unchanged in 28 of the 48 estimating states.
Area harvested for grain, at 84 million acres, is up 3% from last year.
Planting season weather affected Mid-South corn acreage. Arkansas drops from 770,000 to 640,000. Louisiana acreage is up from 425,000 to more than 600,000 acres, according to Fromme. "Corn looks good, with 70% irrigated," he says.
Mississippi corn acreage drops from 660,000 last year to 550,000. Missouri farmers will plant 3.5 million acres in corn this year, up from 3.2 million. Tennessee acreage drops from 970,000 to 950,000.
Jason Kelley, Extension wheat and feed grains agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said the lower corn acreage was likely due in part to the wet spring much the region experienced, which, he says, "limited fieldwork and prevented planting during our optimum time to plant corn." With better weather, he says Arkansas farmers would have planted 800,000 acres of corn.
Scott Stiles, Extension economist for the Division of Agriculture, says considering higher-than-average rainfall and the economic impact of COVID-19, the drop in Arkansas corn acre was lower than he had expected prior to the release of the June 30 report.
"In January, growers had opportunities to do some pricing at around $4 per bushel," Stiles says. "With the sharp drop in fuel and ethanol demand, new crop corn prices were trading below $3.20 by April. Combine that with the challenges we had getting the crop planted, and I’m surprised to see acreage above 600,000. Six-hundred and forty thousand acres puts us right in the middle of our 2017-2018 planted acreage totals."
Peanuts get a bump in Arkansas and Mississippi, from 34,000 acres to 35,000 acres in Arkansas and 20,000 to 25,000 in Mississippi.
Nationally, soybean planted area for 2020 is estimated at 83.8 million acres, up 10% from last year. Compared with last year, planted acreage is up or unchanged in 24 of the 29 estimating states, according to NASS estimates.
Arkansas farmers will increase soybeans acreage from 2.65 million last year to 2.95 million.
"Soybean prices have not enticed growers to plant," Stiles says. "This spring, November soybean futures have basically been locked in a range from $8.40 to $8.80. The challenges of getting corn and cotton planted may have shifted some additional acres to soybeans."
Louisiana soybean acreage moves from 890,000 acres to 1.1 million. Mississippi increases from 1.66 million to 2 million acres; Missouri increases from 5.1 million to 5.6 million acres; and Tennessee acreage moves from 1.4 million to 1.6 million.
Rice acreage takes a significant jump in Arkansas, from 950,000 acres to 1.25 million, reflecting market improvements and better margins compared to other options.
Mississippi rice farmers increase from 115,000 acres last year to 150,000 for 2020; Louisiana bumps from 370,000 last year to 390,000; Missouri increased from 180,000 to 210,000.
Jarrod Hardke, Arkansas Extension rice agronomist, says he had expected rice acreage to approach the state’s total capacity.
"Acres were expected to exceed the March Prospective Planting report," Hardke says. "However, a persistently wet spring prevented acres from reaching above 1.5 million, where they realistically would have likely gone, had better opportunities to plant presented themselves.
"To achieve greater than 1.4 million acres this year, growers had to get very creative," he says. "Growers planted in less-than-optimal conditions more often than not, but their efforts mostly paid off and we achieved more planted acres than some thought possible."
NASS estimates all wheat planted area for 2020 is at 44.3 million acres, down 2% from 2019. This represents the lowest all wheat planted area since records began in 1919.
The 2020 winter wheat planted area, at 30.6 million acres, is down 2% from last year and down 1% from the previous estimate. Of this total, about 21.5 million acres are hard red winter, 5.63 million acres are soft red winter, and 3.42 million acres are white winter. Area expected to be planted to other spring wheat for 2020 is estimated at 12.2 million acres, down 4% from 2019. Of this total, about 11.5 million acres are hard red spring wheat. Durum planted area for 2020 is expected to total 1.50 million acres, up 12% from the previous year.
Mid-South winter wheat acreage estimates show Arkansas moving up from 110,000 acres last year to 140,000 acres in 2020. Tennessee also increases acreage from 280,000 to 310,000. Mississippi acreages drops from 45,000 to 40,000.