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Delta planters roll; Spring nearing for Corn Belt

Agriculture.com Staff 03/14/2011 @ 1:36pm

If you talk to the folks in the Delta and the U.S. South, you'll find the theme for this year's spring planting season is more: More corn, more soybeans, more cotton.

Weather, but mostly higher prices, are driving this year's planting decisions, seed dealers and crop consultants say. In fact, some of that new-crop is already in the ground. And very soon, weather permitting, U.S. southern farmers will be planting corn rapidly.

Jack Colmen, Jimmy Sanders Inc.  branch manager in Stuttgart, Arkansas, says early corn planting has occurred in the southern Delta.

"About 100 miles south of here, corn is already planted. In our area, we will plant 10,000 acres between now and the first of April. We hope to be 80% planted by the end of March," Colmen says. "So, weather permitting, we will plant fast and furiously beginning this week."

The southeastern Arkansas seed dealer says the farmers are facing a dry planting season. "Our challenge this year is getting the reservoirs re-filled. "We don't have the irrigation water we usually have."

Because of shortages of surface water and prices, Arkansas, the largest U.S. rice producing-state will see a shift of acres to more core and soybeans in 2011.

"This is the biggest shift of acres, away from rice, that we have ever seen," Colmen says. "Farmers that usually plant half soybeans and half rice are running a mix of corn and soybeans."

Otherwise, farmers' budgets are solid with increased revenue, he says.

(Photo courtesy Jack Bridgers).

Started in Mississippi

Wilson Cunningham, Jimmy Sanders Inc. branch manager, located in Yazoo City, Mississippi, says 1% of expected corn acres have been planted, as of Monday. "Around here, planting on these sandy soils started a week ago," he says.

Throughout Mississippi, it's estimated that 5% of the state's corn is already planted. However, corn and soybean plantings are expected to be down 15% to 20% versus a year ago, replaced by cotton.

Because the area has a lot of non-irrigated ground, combined with this year's higher prices, Delta farmers will plant more cotton near Yazoo City, Jack Bridgers, a local crop consultant says.

"Last year, corn yields were off 30 bushels per acre, due to dry weather. This year's weather is expected to be dry again, so these traditional cotton farmers are switching acres back to their favorite crop," Bridgers says.

In contrast, northern Mississippi farmers are having weed resistant problems, making it difficult to grow cotton, Bridgers says. "A lot of people think of the Delta as a flat table top, and it is for the most part. But, the area differs. So, more corn and soybeans will be planted, this year, up there (northern Delta), because their ground can handle it."

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