Ohio growers shift from soybeans into corn

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COLUMBUS – Ohio will see a 100,000-acre increase in corn in 2004, the only increase in the Eastern Corn Belt, and as large or larger than all other states except Minnesota.

That’s a pretty hefty acreage when the USDA is reporting only a fraction of a percent increase in U.S. corn acreage compared to last year and in 2002.

Most states are either remaining unchanged in their acreage or are switching to other crops because of more favorable prices.

Report a surprise. Matt Roberts, an Ohio State University agricultural economist, said the low numbers in the USDA’s recently released Prospective Plantings report came as a surprise, especially when high corn prices were expected to result in national corn acreage increasing by 1 to 2 million acres.

“Everybody had been waiting for this report since November,” Roberts said. “Because of strong prices in corn and soybeans, general expectations would be that we’d see an increase in both crops. What we actually see is that corn is roughly unchanged.”

Regional shifts. U.S. corn acreage will be up to 79 million in 2004 compared to 78.7 million last year, according to the USDA.

Roberts said that the small change in corn acreage has more to do with recent yields in given geographical areas, rather than a wholesale shift from several states.

For example, in Ohio growers have shifted away from soybeans and wheat into corn; whereas, in southern states, the shift has been away from corn into soybeans and cotton.

“The two just basically offset each other,” Roberts said.

“In any given geographical area, there are agronomic conditions that make that area more or less suited to a different crop.”

Shift from soybeans. In Ohio, growers tend to be generally happier with corn performance and corn profitability than soybeans or wheat, and it shows.

Soybean acreage is only up 50,000 acres from last year. And since 2002, soybean acreage has declined from 4.7 million acres to 4.35 million acres.

Wheat acreage is down this year to 900 million acres compared to last year’s 1 million-plus-acreage revival.

Growing more GMO. Biotech plantings have nearly doubled since last year, from 9 percent to 16 percent.

The numbers, however, are still considerably lower than the numbers put forth by Ohio’s Midwestern neighbors.

“The bottom line is that Ohio growers just don’t have the serious problems with European corn borer that tend to constantly plague other states,” Roberts said.

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