THE ABSENCE of positive incentives is influencing Mississippi growers to adjust planting intentions to the crops with the fewest strikes against them: cotton and grain sorghum.

USDA's prospective plantings reports released March 30 predicts Mississippi farmers will plant 15 percent more cotton and 11 percent more sorghum than last year. The only other crop showing any increase in acreage is rice, which is expected to increase about 2 percent. The biggest loss will be for soybeans, down 12 from 1.7 million acres to 1.5 million.

Erick Larson, grain crops agronomist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said corn planting is under way, particularly in the Delta. If rains do not susbide soon, growers may switch some fields intended for corn to an alternative. USDA predicted Mississippi corn acreage would be down about 2 percent to around 400,000 acres.

“Grain sorghum acreage has been steadily increasing in recent years. Sorghum's appeal as a rotation crop is increasing this year because it requires substantially less nitrogen fertilizer than corn, which has the highest nitrogen needs of all row crops,” Larson said. “Sorghum is also more drought-tolerant than corn and hardy on less-productive soils.”

Will McCarty, Mississippi Extension cotton specialist, said if soybean prices hold and weather allows, Mississippi's total acreage will be around 1.5 million acres for the first time since 1976.

“Low prices of all commodities are causing farmers to look at planting more cotton and utilizing risk management alternatives (insurance) to reduce risk.”