That’s two 15 percent increases in a row for U.S. cotton acres. According to USDA’s March 31 Prospective Plantings report, U.S. cotton producers intend to plant 12.6 million acres in 2011, which if realized, would be a 15 percent increase over the 10.9 million planted in 2010. Cotton acres also increased 15 percent from 2009 to 2010.

The increase is due to historically high cotton prices and the potential for increased returns versus corn and soybeans. The acreage estimate still fell short of what many traders were expecting, which will likely lend support to prices.

Upland cotton acreage is expected to total 12.3 million acres, up 14 percent from last year while American-Pima cotton acreage is expected to total 252,000 acres, up 24 percent from 2010.

Growers intend to increase planted area in all states, according to the survey. The largest increase, at 548,000 acres, is expected in Texas, where growers intend to plant 6.1 million acres. Acreage increases of more than 100,000 acres are expected in North Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi. Georgia cotton producers say they’ll plant 1.45 million acres of cotton this year.

U.S. corn growers intend to plant 92.2 million acres of corn for all purposes in 2011, up 5 percent from last year and 7 percent higher than in 2009. If realized, this will be the second highest planted acreage in the United States since 1944, behind only the 93.5 million acres planted in 2007.

Acreage increases of 250,000 or more are expected in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and South Dakota. The largest decrease is expected in Texas, down 150,000 acres.

Soybean planted area for 2011 is estimated at 76.6 million acres, down 1 percent from last year. If realized, this would be the third largest on record. Acreage declines from last year of 100,000 acres or more are expected in Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Ohio. If realized, the planted area in New York and North Dakota will be the largest on record.

U.S. rice producers intend to plant 3.018 million acres in 2010, a 17 percent decrease over 2010. Intended rice acres declined in all rice-producing states except California, which increased 17,000 acres. Intended rice plantings dropped by 390,000 acres in Arkansas, 70,000 acres in Louisiana, 105,000 acres in Mississippi, 51,000 acres in Missouri, and 19,000 acres in Texas.

All wheat planted area is estimated at 58 million acres, up 8 percent from last year. Winter wheat planted area, at 41.2 million acres, is 10 percent above last year and up 1 percent from the previous estimate. Of this total, about 29.4 million acres are hard red winter, 8.2 million acres are soft red winter, and 3.7 million are white winter.

Area planted to other spring wheat for 2011 is estimated at 14.4 million acres, up 5 percent from 2010. Of this total, about 13.6 million acres are hard red spring wheat. Durum planted area for 2011 is estimated at 2.37 million acres, down 8 percent from 2010.