Wichita The Sunflower State will be filled with plenty more sunflowers come this spring.
Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported Friday that Kansas farmers plan to increase their sunflower acreage by 45 percent, planting 320,000 acres into the crop.
"Part of it might be there has been an expanded look at alternative crops," said Jere White, executive director of the Kansas Corn Growers Assn. and the Grain Sorghum Producers Assn.
White said the increased sunflower acres also might reflect poor wheat conditions, with some farmers considering plowing up their struggling wheat stands and replanting this spring into sunflowers or sorghum.
Still, the state's major crops wheat, milo, corn and soybeans will continue to dominate the Kansas farm scene. The government's planting intentions report shows only a small shift either way on the main crops.
"The game plan is thought well in advance and doesn't shift immediately based on outside pressure and I think this (report) reflects that," White said.
Farmers plan to put in 19.9 million acres to the top four crops, up 1 percent from a year ago, KASS said. The state's winter wheat seeded last fall accounts for nearly half, or 9.9 million, of those acres.
Among the spring-planted crops, Kansas farmers are cutting back on their corn acres. That crop is more expensive to grow, requiring more inputs like high-priced nitrogen fertilizer. But the new report indicates a far more modest shift away from corn than had been feared earlier in winter when fertilizer prices were even higher.
"There is a lot of grumbling, but as far as people saying that they were going to do anything different, it just wasn't happening," White said.
KASS reported in the season's first planting intentions report that Kansas farmers plan to seed 3.4 million acres of corn. That is just 1 percent below the 2000 acreage.
Farmers expect to boost their sorghum acreage by 3 percent from a year ago, planting 3.6 million acres.
Kansas soybean acres which were devastated last year by the drought also proved a popular choice. Farmers plan to put in 3 million acres into soybeans. That is up 2 percent from last year.
Among other spring-planted crops of lesser importance in Kansas:
l Oat seedings are expected to be down 9 percent at 100,000 acres.
l Barley seedings at 5,000 acres are down from the 8,000 acres planted in 2000.
l Cotton seedings are expected to be up by an additional 4,000 acres, to 44,000 acres.
Livestock producers struggling to find enough hay to feed their animals over this past winter will likely be heartened to see that about 4 percent more acres will be planted into hay.
All hay for harvest is expected to be at 2.9 million acres this year, KASS reported.