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Soybeans still the king on the row-crop chess board

By JACK WEATHERLY
jack.weatherly@msbusiness.com

Market conditions and the weather have played their role in the annual shifting of acreage devoted to row crops in Mississippi.

Cotton acreage is up 26 percent from 2016. Corn is down 25 percent and rice acreage is down 38 percent.

And soybeans are up 10 percent, according to the acreage report from the USDA.

But one thing hasn’t changed.

The soybean is still king.

Long gone are the days when cotton was the monarch.

In fact, as they have for a decade or so, soybeans make up more than two-thirds of the acreage for all row crops in the state.

That’s 2.25 million acres of the row-crop total of 3.6 million, according to the USDA report issued June 30.

Nationwide, 89.5 million acres of soybeans were planted, up 7 percent from 2016 and a record, according to the USDA report.

That’s the best and last report till the final one comes out in January.

Soybeans rose to about $17 a bushel in 2012 and 2013, said Dr. Larry Falconer, agricultural economist at Mississippi State University’s Delta Research and Extension Center at Stoneville.

The value of soybeans was put at $1 billion last year, and cotton, while a fifth of the size of soybeans, was second at $442 million, followed by corn at $436 million.

Cotton was planted on 550,000 acres in 2017, up 115,000 acres from from a year earlier.

“I was expecting 650,000 to 700,000, just based on what I was hearing from growers and consultants and dealers,” said Dr. Darrin Dodds, cotton specialist. The USDA was right, “but I think they were lucky to be right.”

Genetic engineering and improved management have helped bring about mega yields, Dodds said. The average lint per acre for three of the past five years has been more than 1,200 pounds. And in the Delta 1,600 to 1,800-pounds per acre are not uncommon.

Coupled with “respectable prices,” cotton has enjoyed an upswing, Dodds said.

Falconer that it is good to see cotton acreage up.

That’s because the industry, in terms of gins and dealers, relies on the crop, he said. Loss of that support devastated eastern Oklahoma’s cotton economy, he said.

Cotton acreage – primarily the upland variety – across the United States is up about 20 percent, the USDA said.

Corn planting in Mississippi is estimated at 560,000 acres, down 25 percent from 2016, though 30,000 acres above March planting intentions, said Dr. Erick Larson, a specialist in corn, wheat and sorghum.

Rice plummeted 38 percent, down 75,000 acres, to 120,000 – the lowest acreage in 40 years.

Wheat is estimated at 50,000 acres, down 15,000 from a year earlier and the lowest planted acres since 1962.

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