As in other Mid-South states, corn acreage in Tennessee and the Missouri Bootheel is expected to rise in 2007.

While Tennessee lost corn acreage last year, Angela Thompson expects the commodity to at least “gain those acres back. That means we'll probably be back to our norm in corn acres — around 650,000.”

The Tennessee Extension corn and soybean specialist believes any move to corn will be at cotton's expense.

“The corn acres that we lost last year typically went to cotton.

“We were short about 100,000 acres of corn in 2006. And there's a chance that corn acres will be higher than 650,000.”

In the Bootheel, “I've heard that there will be a shift of 20 percent from cotton to corn,” says Gene Stevens, crop production specialist at the Delta Center in Portageville, Mo.

“After speaking with fertilizer and seed dealers that doesn't seem out of line and is probably being conservative.”

Of course, any shift will be on lesser cotton soils. “Around Kennett, Mo., and other areas where cotton is consistently two-bales, cotton acres will probably hold. The really good soils will still be in cotton. But as you get further east in the Bootheel, there's less certainty and more corn will be planted.”

Right now, some areas of Tennessee are too dry to plant corn.

“A few showers are running through right now and, if it warms up, that'll help producers wanting to start planting later this week,” says Thompson. “We've had a little corn planted but not a lot. A cold front came through (March 16-17) and that slowed down any planting. It's warmed up since so producers will get back in the field as quickly as they can.”

In Mississippi and Louisiana, moisture is also becoming an issue. “We've made tremendous corn-planting progress for this time of year,” says Erick Larson, Mississippi Extension corn and grain sorghum specialist.

“And we'd continue to if we weren't so dry… Much of the state hasn't had rain for over three weeks.”

Some Mississippi growers have been forced to water corn fields. “I don't think that's to get a crop to emerge but some have turned on center pivots and furrow-irrigated to incorporate nitrogen.”

In central and northeast Louisiana, “moisture is marginal at best,” says David Lanclos, LSU AgCenter corn and grain sorghum specialist. “A few growers have told me they're planting corn a little deeper. I haven't heard of anyone watering to get nitrogen melted in but if we don't get a rain by (the last week of March), that'll start.”

A sustained producer interest in corn has yet to clean shelves of seed. “Surprisingly, corn seed is available,” says Lanclos. “The variety may not be first pick but some good varieties are still out there. The seed guys have come through with an adequate supply.”

Louisiana is “probably 75 percent done with corn planting. When asked about acreage, I'm still saying 500,000-plus — maybe a big plus.”

In Mississippi, Larson says corn planting is “well above” 70 percent complete. “That's at least three weeks ahead of normal and we're still expecting a big bump in corn acreage.

“At this point, we're not too worried about a cold snap hurting the corn. The likelihood of having a freeze after April begins is slight. And young corn is hardy even against a hard freeze. Its growing point is underground until it's about a foot tall.”

All specialists interviewed say farmer interest in grain sorghum is higher than normal. “I have a computer program that, after entering data on a number of factors, will calculate potential profits,” says Stevens.

“Until this year, I'd never had anyone ask what the program was showing the potential for grain sorghum. I've had to change some of the numbers in the program because of the rising price of grain sorghum.

“So, there's some activity and curiosity regarding grain sorghum in the Bootheel.”

Sorghum acreage in Tennessee “is a big question mark,” says Thompson. “Claims about sorghum have bounced around all winter. However, acreage in Tennessee is usually pretty low. Around 25,000 acres of grain sorghum is good for us.”