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Soybeans lose their luster

fotokostic/ThinkstockPhotos Soybean, corn and wheat field planted next to one another.
Farmers eye more wheat and corn in first survey of 2018 planting intentions.

After boosting soybean acreage to new all-time highs in 2016 and 2017, growers may be ready to take a breather on beans, according to Farm Futures first survey of 2018 planting intentions. Farmers surveyed by the magazine revealed hopes to boost corn and wheat while cutting back on soybeans, cotton and sorghum.

Results of the survey were released Tuesday morning on the opening day of the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois.

Initial planting intentions for corn came in at 92.8 million acres, up 2.1% from the 90.9 million seeded this spring. To make room for that corn, growers said they will cut back on soybeans, planting 86.1 million acres, down almost 4% from the 89.5 million planted in 2017.

Soybeans also could lose ground to wheat, a crop fighting to prove it’s put in a long-term bottom. After seeding the fewest wheat acres in 2017 since the end of World War I, farmers are ready to return to that crop a little. Our survey found growers wanting to boost wheat seedings by 2.5 million acres to 48.1 million, a 5.4% increase over 2017. Nearly 90% of that increase would come in winter wheat seeded this fall.

Sorghum and cotton could join soybeans and see fewer acres planted in the year ahead. Sorghum was the “it” crop a couple years ago, when Chinese processors boosted imports to circumvent restrictions on purchases of foreign corn. But the bloom of that rose has long since faded, and the popularity of the alternative feed grain is in retreat. Cotton also depends on Chinese demand, which could be crucial in changing farmers’ minds for soybeans over the winter. The Farm Futures survey put sorghum acreage at 5.7 million, down 4.5%, with cotton at 11.7 million acres, off 3.1%.

Farm Futures surveyed 1,183 growers from 41 states July 17 to Aug. 2. Farmers were invited by email to fill out a survey questionnaire online.

Farm Futures Senior Grain Market Analyst Bryce Knorr noted that prices of corn, soybeans and wheat are all down since the survey was conducted. Cotton staged a brief rebound but is also near lows for the year.

“These first estimates of 2018 planting intentions are just a snapshot, one that could fade quickly depending on market conditions,” Knorr noted. “Weather in South America and perhaps Australia, along with the health of the global economy could all play a role as farmers try to turn red ink into profit in the year ahead.”

Complicating the acreage puzzle, Knorr said, is uncertainty over just how many acres farmers planted this spring. USDA’s National Agricultural Statistic Service June 30 said farmers planted 1.4 million more acres to corn than soybeans. But another report by the Farm Service Agency put initial soybean acres certified for government programs 1.5 million above corn.

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