Larson knows of many operations that have moved to grains over cotton “in a big way. I’ve heard numerous testimonies from farmers saying they haven’t grown cotton at all in recent years.

“You used to drive past farms and they’d have bunches of production signs along the roadside saying ‘XYZ Cotton Planting Company.’ Now, you drive those same roads and you can’t find a cotton field.”

It’s rather easy to make the switch, he says. “That’s because there’s very little additional equipment a farmer needs to invest in. It may take nothing beyond buying a corn header for the combine. Most of the guys growing cotton are already growing soybeans so the combine is already on site.”

Of course, grain storage is more of a long-term commitment, which many growers have made.

“We believed that lacking infrastructure would be a big limitation for growing corn in the Mid-South. And that is still the case, I think. But we’ve gotten better at working around that while the infrastructure – both commercial and farmer-owned – has caught up. Both sides of that infrastructure, whether putting up grain bins and buying combines and using temporary poly-storage bags, have adapted substantially. There has really been a substantial commitment made to corn since 2007.”

A producer can grow corn in cotton-based production systems rather easily. “One of the major differences between the Mid-South and Corn Belt is our row widths are based on the traditional wide cotton planting systems – 38- to 40-inch rows. In areas where cotton isn’t a major player, growers made a transition to 30-inch rows 30 or 40 years ago.”

Those narrow rows are gaining more interest in Mississippi. “We’ve got more farmers that don’t have cotton as part of their cropping mix,” says Larson. “If you’re just growing corn and soybeans, you can improve productivity by 10 percent, or more. That’s a major opportunity.”

From a research and educational standpoint that’s a key area to mine. “It’s hard to change growers’ philosophies about things like row widths. Mississippi cotton, corn and soybeans have always been grown on wider rows that originally accommodated a plow and a horse’s rear end.”