Arkansas corn expected to break 2007 yield record
In the annual gamble that is farming, the smart money is on corn.
"The aggressive growers who are locked into corn production every year, they are trying to tie down seed for next season," Brent Griffin, Prairie County Extension staff chairman for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said Friday.
Based on past performance, corn seems like a solid bet. The Sept. 12 crop production from the National Agricultural Statistics Service forecast showed Arkansas at 175 bushels an acre, a yield that would break the 2007 record of 169 bushels an acre. And in a year where drought practically destroyed the crop in the major Midwest corn states, Arkansas' average yield would be the nation's fourth-highest.
That same Midwestern drought is causing some hiccups for Arkansas farmers. Those who are contracting seed for next year "their choice of seed is not being confirmed due to availability," Griffin said. There is plenty of seed, but growers may not be able to get as much of their first choice of varieties.
When planting does begin for 2013, "those new corn acres will be shifted out of cotton," said Scott Stiles, Extension economist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. "That's what the market is telling growers to do."
Cotton declined from 660,000 acres harvested in 2011 to 580,000 acres this year. Some analysts have indicated the state's cotton acreage could dip below 400,000 acres next year.
"I'm not entirely convinced yet that we'll see cotton acreage with a 3 in front of it," he said. "But we could easily see acreage drop by 100,000, or 17 percent."
With corn at 96 percent harvested last week, Arkansas farmers aren't dawdling where 2013 is concerned.
"They are financially invested. When corn growers are already booking seed for next year, that's a good indicator that acreage will increase again," Stiles said, adding that growers were also making another key production decision for corn.
"Some already have urea booked for next year. They were locking in prices yesterday," he said.
A key fertilizer for corn, urea's demand will be strong again in 2013. With the potential for U.S. corn acres to increase by 2 to 4 million acres next year, some growers are getting prices locked in now, in case further uncertainty causes prices to rise over the winter, going from the current $500-$600 a ton range now to potentially $800 a ton, as seen earlier this year.
Others, "they're waiting to see if uncertainty dies down during the winter," Griffin said.
Arkansas farmers harvested 520,000 acres of corn last year and 640,000 acres this year.
"It's definitely been an amazing year," said Jason Kelley, Extension wheat and feed grains agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
"We had a two things going for us this year. We had the early planting that allowed us to avoid a lot of the heat and drought stress and our crop was far along when conditions became serious," he said, adding "most of us had water irrigation to help things out."
"If Isaac had come through two weeks earlier, things might not have been as rosy," he said. "Overall, it was as great year in the fields that had the water and producers who took good care of them."
Nationally, corn was down 13 percent from 2011, with the 10.7 billion-bushel production estimate the smallest in the U.S. since 2006.
The report projected the production and yield for major U.S. crops, updating forecasts from a report issued Aug. 10. Drought damage to corn and soybean crops in the Midwest shows in the forecast. (See the report at www.usda.gov/nass/PUBS/TODAYRPT/crop0912.pdf.)
For more information, contact your county Extension office or visit www.uaex.edu.