BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU AgCenter experts say the outlook for the 2003 corn crop in Louisiana is "very good" — and they say Louisiana farmers are likely to plant more of the crop this year.

David Lanclos, a soybean, corn and grain sorghum specialist with the LSU AgCenter, recently said he could see Louisiana growers planting as much as 600,000 acres this year. That would be up from 500,000 acres of corn planted last year.

"That's if seed can be found and if we can work the ruts out of the fields," Lanclos said of the prediction for an acreage increase. "If we have optimum planting conditions, we are pretty sure that we will see an increase in corn acres. But if it is too wet or too dry, acreage could go down and be switched to other commodities."

Lanclos said the increase in corn acreage could be attributed to decreased cotton acreage, but that trend may not hold true if the slight bump seen recently in cotton prices continued a significant upward trend.

Kurt Guidry of the LSU AgCenter's Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, said September 2003 corn futures currently are running around $2.40 per bushel and the December 2003 cotton futures are around 58 cents per pound.

"With variable costs of production for corn around $200 per acre and around $390 for cotton, returns above variable costs for a 120-bushel corn yield would be about $88 per acre for corn. Returns for a 700-pound cotton yield would be about $26 per acre for cotton," Guidry said. "Therefore, a price of $2.40 per bushel for corn would seem more profitable than a price of 58 cents per pound for cotton at average yields. Obviously, this is dependent on the assumptions used for price, yield and costs."

Several factors will be crucial to the ability of the corn market to show improvement in 2003, Guidry said. One will be demand, particularly in the form of exports, over the next several months. A second will be the number of acres planted in the United States in 2003.

"Export demand has been somewhat discouraging so far in the 2002–03 marketing year," Guidry said. "And early projections are for an increase in acres.

"An increase in acres coupled with a return to trend yields would likely lead to near record production in 2003. This would obviously place (generally downward) pressure on prices."

Guidry said corn production in the rest of the world also will affect the ability of U.S. producers to export corn.

Tom Merrill is News Editor for LSU AgCenter Communications. (225–578–5896 or tmerrill@agcenter.lsu.edu)