Brian Williams, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said most Mississippi crops had a good year in 2016 despite the extended drought.
“Fortunately, the drought came late in the season when most crops were past the critical stages,” Williams said. “Total production was up, and the value on crops was also up, thanks to cotton and corn.”
Williams predicts Mississippi crops will reach a total value of $2.4 billion. In addition to traditional row crops, agronomic commodities include hay and specialty crops.
Soybeans led the way with a projected value of more than $1 billion, a 2 percent decline from 2015. Growers planted more than 2 million acres of soybeans, down 250,000 acres from 2015. Yields averaged around 50 bushels per acre.
“Soybean prices were about 10 cents higher in 2016, averaging $9.96 cents per bushel. Yields were up about 4 bushels per acre,” Williams said. “Price and yields were not enough to overcome the decrease of 250,000 acres.”
Williams anticipates an increase in Mississippi soybean acres in 2017.
He also predicted an increase in cotton acres, both at the expense of corn acres.
Mississippi planters grew 440,000 acres of cotton, up 120,000 acres from 2015. Yields averaged 1,214 pounds per acre. Agricultural economists estimated cotton’s value at almost $442 million, or a 74 percent increase.
“Cotton had a good market year. Prices were much stronger in 2016 than in the recent past,” Williams said. “Cotton lint averaged 68 cents per pound in 2016, or about 8 cents higher than a year ago and 3 cents higher than two years ago.”
MSU Extension cotton specialist Darrin Dodds said cotton prices will play a factor in expanded acres again next season, but five consecutive years of yields averaging more than 1,000 pounds per acre are also important.
“The 2016 crop was exceptional in most areas despite excessive rainfall in early August,” he said. “The entire month of September saw very high temperatures, which helped finish the crop out. Then we had a near perfect harvest season without rain.”
Dodds forecast growers will plant at least 700,000 acres of cotton in 2017.
Corn followed cotton closely with a value of almost $436 million. Growers planted 720,000 acres of corn — up 210,000 acres — and harvested an average of 163 bushels per acre.
“Corn prices are about $3.71 per bushel compared to $4 last year,” Williams said. “Value of production for corn was higher because growers planted 230,000 more acres than the previous year.”
Economists forecast a rice value of almost $139 million, which would be a 12 percent increase. Growers averaged 7,100 pounds per acre on 200,000 acres in 2016, which was an increase of 50,000 acres.
Expansions in hay acres contributed to a 10 percent increase in value for 2016. Hay ranked 11th among all Mississippi’s agricultural commodities with a total value of $127 million.
Sweet potatoes are expected to post a 45 percent value increase at $116 million, thanks to a significant improvement in yields and additional acres. Mississippi growers planted a record high 30,000 acres of sweet potatoes, 3,000 more than in 2015.
The 2015 average sweet potato yield of 145 hundredweight per acre was well below what it had been the five previous years. The current yield estimate is 191 hundredweight per acre for 2016.
Specialty crops were next with a value of $105 million, down 7 percent. These crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, turfgrass and products grown for ornamental uses, also known as the green industry.
Despite a 4,000-acre reduction, peanuts showed promise with a 21 percent increase to $27 million. Growers planted 40,000 acres in 2016 and averaged 4,100 pounds per acre.
Wheat declined 49 percent to a value of $15 million. Much of that decline can be attributed to a reduction of acreage. Growers planted 80,000 acres, down 70,000 acres from the previous year, and averaged 58 bushels per acre.
“A big reduction in wheat acres and a huge reduction in prices combined to bring the total value down in 2016,” Williams said. “Prices averaged $3.75 per bushel, and the previous year’s prices were closer to $5.15 per bushel.”
Williams said wheat acreage should remain the same or decrease in 2017.
“In terms of markets, there is nowhere to go but up. Wheat hit rock bottom in the last growing season,” he said. “We may see a slight improvement in prices. Even though the dry fall hurt winter wheat planting in Mississippi, Texas and Oklahoma are on schedule.”
Grain sorghum finished at the bottom of all Mississippi’s agricultural commodities with a value of $4 million, down 91 percent. Growers planted 20,000 acres — down 100,000 acres — and averaged 87 bushel per acre at harvest.
Williams said grain sorghum prices averaged $3.78 per bushel in 2016, compared with $4.86 the previous year, bringing the price closer to where it should be relative to corn prices.