Wichita Amid an unrelenting drought, Kansas farmers are planning to put in just 3.35 million acres of corn this spring, down 8 percent from the acreage planted a year ago in the state, National Agricultural Statistics Service said Friday.
The anticipated drop in corn acres across Kansas mirrors the trend in other corn-producing states as more farmers switch to crops that cost less to grow at a time of high prices for fertilizer and irrigation energy.
Corn growers nationwide are expected to plant 78 million acres of corn this spring, down 5 percent from a year ago. The Agriculture Department said that if realized, this would be the lowest corn acreage planted nationwide since 2001, when 75.7 million acres were planted.
Expected acreage is down because producers are switching to less input-intensive crops, the agency said. It also blamed dry conditions in the southern Great Plains for the decrease in corn acres.
In drought-weary western Kansas, Sharon Springs farmer Ron Blaesi stopped only to check out the national news Friday morning before pulling up the much-anticipated spring planting report from the Agriculture Department on his computer.
Blaesi remained undecided how much corn he would plant this season. He hoped the agency's forecast of lower corn acres nationwide and in Kansas would lead to a higher price for corn.
"I will do corn anyway - it's just a matter of how much corn acres I will do," Blaesi said. "I will probably not increase my irrigated acres, I may increase dry land acres."
Blaesi said he has until the end of April to decide which crops he'll seed on his farm.
The Agriculture Department's planting intentions report also gave the first indication of what other crops Kansas farmers might sow on the 300,000 acres where last year they grew corn.
In Kansas, some acres were already put into winter wheat last fall. The agency's estimate for the state's winter wheat crop remained unchanged at 10 million acres. That is the same percentage increase for the nation's winter wheat crop, planted on 41.4 million acres.
But the all-wheat planted area, which includes some of the spring-planted wheats, is expected to total 57.1 million acres. If realized, that would make it the lowest all-wheat planted acreage since 1972, the Agriculture Department said.
Kansas farmers are planting 10 percent more acres in soybeans, forecast at 3.2 million acres in the state.
Farmers across the nation are also putting in more soybeans - the 76.9 million acres expected to be planted in 2006 is up 7 percent and, if realized, would be the largest planted soybean acreage on record.
Kansas, the nation's leading sorghum producer, will also put even more acres into sorghum this spring. The latest estimate anticipates sorghum acreage to grow 2 percent to 2.8 million acres.
The nation's sorghum acreage was estimated at 6.48 million acres, up fractionally from a year ago.