Shift to Corn Acres Won’t be as Strong as Some Expect

Posted on 03/22/2019 12:51 PM

Results of the Pro Farmer/Doane planting intentions survey indicate producers plan to reduce overall crop acreage as the financial weakness in agriculture expands. Total intended acres for the four major crops of corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton are expected to be down roughly a combined 2.1 million acres from last year. 

Corn acreage expected to increase 3%

Survey responses signal producers intend to plant 91.8 million acres to corn this year, up roughly 2.7 million acres (3.0%) from last year. Despite a neutral new-crop soybean:corn ratio of roughly 2.4:1, survey respondents made it quite clear the overriding preference was to add corn acres and reduce soybean plantings. Among farmers responding to the survey, 39% reported plans to increase corn plantings, 37% were planning no change in total corn acres and 24% indicated plans to reduce corn plantings. Those 37% planning no change were very similar to 36% stating that in 2018 and 33% in 2017. The majority of the “no change” responses were from farms in the central Corn Belt, who largely operate on a 50:50 rotation between corn and beans.

Survey results from Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana were consistent with that national increase of 3%. Stronger gains were noted in the Central/Southern Plains and Missouri — likely the result of wet fall weather that reduced winter wheat seedings in this region. Corn plantings are expected to rise 7% in the Mid-South, where winter wheat seedings were also limited.

Given a lack of fall tillage/fertilizer applications and flooding that will delay early spring fieldwork and hamper getting fertilizer, some of the intended corn acres may get switched to soybeans or claimed as prevent-plant.

Soybeans acreage likely to decline nearly 5%

Producers indicated they intend to plant 85.0 million acres to soybeans this year, down 4.2 million acres (4.7%) from last year. Forty-one percent of respondents intend to reduce soybean plantings, 37% say they will not change their bean acreage from last year and only 22% plan to increase soybean plantings.

Farmers in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana say they intend to cut soybean acres by about 4%. Deeper cuts were indicated in the Delta and the Carolinas, as more acres will be seeded to corn and cotton in these states. Our survey indicates a large chunk of the drop in soybean acres will be in North Dakota, where plantings are expected to fall more than 10%.

In addition to the aforementioned flooding and anticipated spring fieldwork delays, soybeans could also pick up some acres from corn based on cost-cutting measures and/or a sudden resolution to the trade war with China. 

Other spring wheat, durum acres to decline

Analysis of our survey points to total U.S. other spring wheat acres slipping 1% to 13.1 million acres this year. Growers in North Dakota, Minnesota and Montana signaled reductions from 2018, while farmers in South Dakota indicated larger other spring wheat seedings. There was a theme this year, particularly in the Northern Plains, for farmers to favor fallowing land or growing hay at the expense of planting field crops.

 Durum seedings are expected to be down 100,000 acres (3.0%) at 2 million acres. North Dakota farmers pointed to generally higher seedings relative to 2018. In general, farmers who intend to increase durum seedings in 2019 are doing so at the expense of other spring wheat.

Sorghum plantings projected to be lower

Respondents said they intend to plant 5.4 million acres to sorghum, which would be down 300,000 acres (5.1%) from last year. Many farmers in Kansas signaled they plan to plant many of their unseeded winter wheat acres to corn instead of sorghum.

Another big jump expected in cotton seedings

Our survey indicates cotton acres will rise roughly 800,000 acres (5.7%) to 14.9 million acres. The biggest driver for higher acreage was the Delta, where farmers planned to increase seedings by about 15%. Cotton acreage in the Plains is project higher, too. Our survey shows Texas cotton seedings could exceed 8 million acres.


2018 Actual

(mil. acres)

2019 Intentions

(mil. acres)

% change from 2018













All wheat




   Other spring
















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