Crop Acre Shift May Slow
Will Connell’s clients’ soybean acres are up, and cotton is down. Although corn has not made inroads to his part of North Carolina, grain sorghum has. A decision by Murphy Farms to use lower cost sorghum instead of corn in hog rations has raised the price enough to make this “new” crop attractive to Connell’s clients.
“Farmers with sandy soils are more likely to switch to grain sorghum than corn,” noted Connell, Ag Consultant, Inc. “The increase in corn prices has raised the price and interest in grain sorghum.”
Jack Royal, Royal’s Agricultural Consulting, Co., is starting his 36th year as a crop consultant and has seen his share of change in cropping patterns. He sees similar shifts to Connell in his area of west Georgia, with increased corn acres and some increase in grain sorghum. The strength of peanuts in his area makes crop rotations, whether with cotton or corn, vital. It also adds strength to the case for wheat. The recently improved corn price and increased cost of weed control in cotton is enhancing interest in corn and less water-dependent grain sorghum crops.
“You don’t want to mess up a rotation by following peanuts with soybeans or vice versa,” said Royal. “The main thing we try to do is keep a good rotation with peanuts, corn and cotton. Our biggest acreage jump was in corn, but it has to be irrigated. Corn acres had been down in recent years until the price went up. We can plant grain sorghum on dry land. It can take a lot of stress, and we can make a little money on it.”
LOOKING AT MORE OPTIONS
Although grain sorghum doesn’t represent a lot of acres for Royal, it is one more option, and that’s important when peanut acres can fluctuate by 50 percent from one year to the next. Drought in 2011 reduced carryover and enhanced contracts for peanuts in 2012. This pushed peanut acres in Georgia from 450,000 acres in 2011 to 725,000 acres. This year the opposite happened, and acres are expected to be down at least 40 percent. Stronger wheat prices increased acres of winter wheat.
Price is what matters to Connell’s growers as well. He recalled his clients’ acres shifting to cotton from soybeans, thanks in part to the government program incentive to build base and to lower soybean prices and increase cotton prices. With the government program no longer rewarding base acres, commodity prices are again king makers. On the local level, that can create some unlikely contenders. Connell reported expanding acres in clary sage, a crop in demand by the perfume and scent industry for use in laundry detergents and other consumer products. Cropping shifts big and little require change and learning new things.