One of the highest average yields in 10 years, plus strong 2011 futures prices, may halt the slide in Arkansas’ corn acres.

"Planted acreage in the state has been sliding lower since 2007," said Scott Stiles, Extension economist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. Acreage in 2010 was 9 percent down from 2009 to 390,000 acres.

Yet, yields were strong despite high temperatures and low rainfall. The National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) pegged state average corn yield to be up two bushels over last year at 150 bushels per acre, which would be the third-highest state average yield in the last 10 years.

"Strength in early cotton prices may have pulled some acres away from corn and new crop futures prices started to trend lower in January on expectations of a rise in U.S. ending stocks," Stiles said, adding that "prices continued to work lower through the end of June."

However, corn prices began moving upward with summer temperatures.

"September futures reversed course on June 30 with the release of the NASS acreage report," he said. "U.S. corn planted acreage came in nearly 1 million acres less than the March 31 prospective plantings estimate. 

"At the same time, the worst drought in a century was hitting Western Europe and parts of Russia," Stiles said. "This severely cut world grain production and forced some countries to resort to grain export bans."

In addition, U.S. production estimates were also declining as 100-degree heat throughout the South and too much rain in parts of the western Cornbelt combined to sink yields. USDA estimates for 2010/2011 end stocks were at 827 million bushels, a 15-year low.

As of late November, Chicago Board of Trade September 2011 corn futures were trading at $5.10 a bushel.  

"This price level should be expected to increase acreage next year," said Stiles. However, corn prices relative to soybean and cotton prices are generally more indicative of which crop will gain or lose acreage in Arkansas. 

"Preliminary comparisons indicate returns to corn exceeding those of most competing commodities; including soybeans and rice. With U.S. corn ending stocks projected at what many view as dangerously low, futures prices for next year’s crop are expected to trade at attractive levels through spring 2011."

For more information about crop production contact your county Extension office or visit www.uaex.edu.