2012 may just not be cotton’s year in Arkansas, as pigweed and prices push acres toward soybeans and corn.

The industry will know Friday when the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service issues its “Prospective Plantings” report, providing the season’s first comprehensive look at the nation’s row crop landscape for 2012.

The report is the result of phone, email and regular mail surveys of producer crop preferences taken between Feb. 28 and March 19.

“Many producers in the southern counties began the transition to corn four or five years ago and have the equipment and expertise in place,” Scott Stiles, Extension economist, said on Wednesday. “The potential for a hard-fought battle with pigweeds and insects are other factors that work against cotton.”

Tentatively, the industry has corn acres increasing in Arkansas from last year’s 560,000 acres to at least 600,000.

“This could increase to as much as 650,000, given the early planting start we’ve seen,” Stiles said. “Much of the increase in corn acres will come at the expense of cotton. Cotton acres are projected to decline about 50,000 acres to a total of 630,000.”

Commodity prices are another factor.

“For corn, soybeans and rice, 2012 planning prices aren’t that different today compared to a year ago,” he said. The biggest price decline has occurred in cotton.

“A year ago, December 2011 cotton futures traded at $1.24 compared to about 90 cents today. This 34-cent decline translates into $340 per acre in gross revenue lost on a 1,000-pound average yield. This is certainly an issue with higher fertilizer and fuel prices this year, not to mention budget uncertainty over weeds and insects.”

The futures market also smiled on soybeans, as November futures continued trending upward during the survey period, gaining 46 cents and trading from $12.78 to a high of $13.33.

“The continuation of rising soybean prices may shift additional acres away from cotton and rice to soybeans in Arkansas.”

Soybean acreage is expected to increase from 3.33 million last year to 3.45 million, pulling some additional acres from rice, Stiles said.

Total rice acreage was 1.2 million in 2011.

“Most believe total rice acres will decline this year to about 1.08 million. September rice futures have surged higher this week, and trade near $15.30. The cooperative weather is another factor that may have a stabilizing effect on rice acreage in the state.”

Other commodity price ranges during this year's survey period:

  • Corn -- September futures from $5.83 to $6.09.
  • Cotton -- December 2012 futures traded in a range of $87.51 to $93.49.
  • Rice -- September futures traded from $14.30 to $15.23.

For more information about crop budgets, contact your county Extension agent or visit www.uaex.edu.