Corn is a comeback kid in Arkansas.

According to USDA’s latest acreage report, Arkansas growers planted 1 million acres of corn, the highest number since 1951, when 1.05 million acres were planted.

The million-acre mark was forecast in USDA’s March Prospective Plantings report, but with the very wet, cold spring this year, achieving the predicted acreage was something of a surprise, said Scott Stiles, Extension economist.

“Nationally, corn acreage came in higher than the intentions. That was stunning,” he said. “The trade was looking for a 2 to 2.5 million cut in corn acreage and didn’t get it. That hammered the corn market.”

The market reaction was swift.

“Corn and soybeans were off about 25 cents each at the close, and rice and cotton were up a little bit. The cotton acreage number came in within expectations and so did soybeans.

Add to that a much more benign weather outlook for the Midwest than last year’s scorching summer, “there’s a bearish outlook for corn and soybeans.”

The surprise over Arkansas’ acreage was echoed by Jason Kelley, wheat and feed grains agronomist for the University of Arkansas. “We have had lots of interest in corn, but the planting season was trying to say the least or we might’ve had more than that. It is a little higher than I would’ve anticipated given the planting window we had. I had gotten plenty of calls from farmers saying they didn’t get all the planting done that they wanted to.”

Meanwhile, the same report marked low points in acreage for cotton. The 320,000 acres ties the all-time low set in 1983.

For other crops in Arkansas, the report said:

  • Soybeans were at 3.4 million acres, the highest since 2009, with 3.42 million.
  • Winter wheat is at 710,000 acres, highest since the 1.07 million in 2008.
  • Rice, at 1.061 million acres is the lowest since 1987’s 1.02 million acres
  • Milo at 170,000 is the highest since 2007, 225,000 acres.

Jarrod Hardke, rice agronomist for the University of Arkansas, said the acreage report of 1.061 million acres of rice was slightly lower than his pre-report projection of 1.1 million acres. 

“I believe this difference is largely due to a number of producers taking prevented planting rather than plant extremely late rice,” he said. “USDA’s acreage estimate prior to the season was 1.226 million acres. Cool weather which persisted late into the spring combined with frequent abundant rainfall were the primary factors which resulted in actual acreage below early season estimates.”

In March, the Prospective Plantings report estimated 270,000 acres of cotton and 3.25 million acres of soybeans.

Tom Barber, weed scientist and former Extension cotton agronomist, said he’s not surprised by the reported cotton acreage. “The boll weevil group registered 300,000 acres. Once cotton made a little bit of a comeback in price and then we had tough spring, some growers backed out of corn and went to cotton.”

Still planting soybeans

Extension Soybean Agronomist Jeremy Ross said he isn’t surprised. “I actually thought it might have been slightly higher acreage for soybean. We still have about 10 percent to plant. I feel that most of the additional acreage was from rice and corn acres.”

Because there were still roughly 11.5 million acres of soybeans to plant at the time the survey period ended for the report, Stiles said that the National Agricultural Statistics Service plans to resurvey growers in 14 states in July. Arkansas is included among these states. If necessary, USDA will use these survey results in the August Crop Production report.

For more information about crops, contact your county Extension office or visit www.uaex.edu, or http://Arkansascrops.com