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Input costs, weather changing 2022 plans

Cropping decisions influenced by rising input costs.

Forrest Laws

May 11, 2022

David Nichols could see the handwriting on the wall when he began to read reports about supply chain issues involving nitrogen and other fertilizers, herbicides and diesel fuel last fall.

Nichols, who farms with his wife, Ginger, and sons, Tyler and Tanner, in Ridgely, Tenn., can’t apply nitrogen in the fall like growers in Iowa and other Midwest states because of the warmer weather in the South.

“We rely on in-season applications in the spring so we’re up against a tremendous increase in that input side of things for corn,” said Nichols, who participated in a farmer panel during the March 31 U.S. Soybean Export Council’s Planting Intentions Report Webinar.

“So, in my operation, our corn acres are going to be cut quite a bit from last year,” he noted. “In 2021, we were almost 50% corn. This year we’re going to be down to about 30% corn. We’re bumping up soybean acres to replace that. Our winter wheat acres are about the same year in and year out.”

Last fall, however, Nichols reduced his winter wheat plantings in anticipation of higher nitrogen prices in February and March when farmers in the Mid-South typically apply the nutrient to help the wheat come out of dormancy.

Nitrogen application

Nichols’ comments helped illustrate the differences in production systems between Tennessee and Iowa where farmers typically apply nitrogen in the fall because of the much colder and snowy conditions in winter and Indiana where farmers can apply manure from hog operations in place of synthetic fertilizers.

“When we were planning this crop back in the fall, we saw those prices start to escalate, and reading reports we thought that was fixing to be an issue, and, as it turned out, it has been even worse than expected. So we did lower those acres because of nitrogen. In this area of the country, soybean acres definitely are going to be up.”

Unusually cool and rainy weather has prevented many farmers in the Mid-South from following through on planting intentions this spring.

As of April 25, corn growers in Tennessee had planted 17% of their acres compared to a 2017-2021 average of 37%, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s weekly crop progress report.

For soybeans, the lack of progress was even more striking with Tennessee producers having planted less than 1% of their acres compared to a five-year average of 1%. Arkansas farmers had planted 12% compared to the five-year average of 21%; Louisiana, 39% compared to 31%; and Mississippi, 24% compared to 34%.

Cotton planting was also lagging behind with Arkansas at 2% compared to 3%; Louisiana, 14% compared to 12%; Mississippi, 2% compared to 5%; and Tennessee, less than 1% compared to 1%.

To watch the webinar in its entirety, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgBQny6Nxr4.

About the Author(s)

Forrest Laws

Forrest Laws spent 10 years with The Memphis Press-Scimitar before joining Delta Farm Press in 1980. He has written extensively on farm production practices, crop marketing, farm legislation, environmental regulations and alternative energy. He resides in Memphis, Tenn. He served as a missile launch officer in the U.S. Air Force before resuming his career in journalism with The Press-Scimitar.

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