Louisiana: Crop Acreage Mix Expected to Change in 2019

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    Projections indicate that corn and cotton acreage will increase this year but less grain sorghum and soybeans will be grown, an LSU AgCenter economist said at an AgCenter crops and cattle forum in central Louisiana.

    Kurt Guidry said ending stocks for corn are smaller this year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is projecting 92 million acres of corn will be planted this year, a 2-million-acre increase from 2018.

    Currently, prices are hovering around $3.60 per bushel. That price has increased overseas demand for U.S. corn, and export demand is 50 percent higher than a year ago, he said.

    The strong pace in export demand may force the USDA to increase their marketing year expectations for total export sales, which could further reduce ending stocks for the 2018-19 marketing year. A reduction in ending stocks coupled with minimizing the acreage increase in 2019 to around the 2-million-acre level could help boost prices to the $4 range, Guidry said.

    The corn export capacity of Argentina and Brazil has been reduced because those countries are using much of their shipping facilities to export soybeans to China.

    U.S. 2019 soybean acreage is projected at 82.5 million, a decrease of 6 million to 6.5 million acres from last year. The 2018-19 marketing year price is projected at $8.60 per bushel, he said.

    “If acres in 2019 actually fall by 6 to 6.5 million acres, that potential reduction in supplies could help support prices for the 2019 crop at or above the $9 level,” Guidry said.

    Ending soybean stocks are more than double the previous year, and the Chinese have only bought 1.9 million metric tons compared to 24.3 million metric tons last year at this time, a 92 percent decrease, h said.

    But export commitments to China for the remainder of the 2018-19 marketing year stand at 5.5 million metric tons. “This level of commitments brings some hope of a return to more normal trade with China,” Guidry said.

    Brazil’s soybean crop has been reduced by 5 million metric tons this month because of bad weather. “That is a huge amount in one month’s production,” he said.

    Cotton acreage should increase by 2 to 3 percent this year from last year’s total of 14.1 million acres, Guidry said. Last year’s crop was nearly a 2-million-acre increase from 2017.

    Prices have been able to remain above the 70-cents-per-pound level during the 2018-19 marketing year despite this increase in planted acreage because a larger-than-normal acreage abandonment during 2018 helped to keep production from ballooning.

    “However, if acres increase in 2019 and the number of abandoned acres return to a more normal level, the resulting increase in cotton supplies could pressure prices below the 70-cent level,” he said.

    U.S. cattle herd totals appear to have stabilized, reaching the end of an expansion phase. Strong domestic and overseas demand, with exports increasing by more than 30 percent over the last three years, have helped stabilize prices, Guidry said.

    A seasonal slowdown in beef production due to adverse winter weather is expected to provide short-term support to cash fed cattle prices, and that should provide some support to calf prices in the first half of 2019. While beef production is expected to increase later in 2019, strong demand and improving margins should maintain calf prices at the levels experienced over the last two years, Guidry said.

    “Based on USDA data from Mississippi auctions, prices for 500- to 600-pound steer calves averaged roughly $1.41 per pound in 2017 and $1.45 per pound in 2018. Current market fundamentals suggest that prices should again range in that $1.40 pound range for 2019,” he said

    Soil moisture is good for most of the U.S., creating good pasture conditions for the current calf crop.

    Grain sorghum demand is low. China has been the biggest buyer of U.S. grain sorghum. “This year, they’ve bought none from us,” Guidry said.

    A return to high demand by China for grain sorghum should not be expected, regardless of the outcome of ongoing trade talks.

    Guidry also said the new farm bill gives row crop producers more flexibility with the option to choose between the price-loss coverage or agricultural risk coverage programs on an annual basis starting with the 2021 crop year.

    AgCenter entomologist Sebe Brown advised cotton farmers about controlling thrips.

    They should kill weeds should before planting to eliminate habitat for insects. “You want to make sure your field is graveyard dead three to four weeks before planting,” he said.

    Insecticidal seed treatment is good insurance for a corn crop to prevent pests such as wireworms. “The hardest part of a corn crop, entomologically speaking, is getting it out of the ground,” Brown said.

    Failure to rotate other crops with corn makes insect control more difficult. “What that does is create a revolving door for insects that never leave these fields,” he said.

    Seed treatments are also advised for soybeans to protect plants against the three-cornered alfalfa hopper, Brown said.

    This year’s mild winter will result in more redbanded stink bugs that are already being found in south Louisiana. “We have a ‘perfect storm’ scenario for red-banded stink bugs to come back,” he said.

    Rotating insecticides for stink bug control is a good practice. Acephate can be rotated with lannate, he said, but lannate is highly toxic and should be handled with protection against the fumes from that chemical.

    Insects are becoming resistant to Bt cotton, but other means of control are available for those pests, Brown said.

    AgCenter ruminant nutritionist Guillermo Scaglia advised using body condition scoring as an indicator of an animal’s nutritional status and energy reserves. While a score of 1 is very thin and 9 is very fat, the ideal score year-round is 5-6. Cattle with a body condition score of 7, 8 or 9 are not very productive and more expensive to maintain.

    A cow’s nutritional requirements vary throughout the year depending on its physiological status. After calving, requirements are at their peak, and during last third of gestation they also go up because fetus grows quickly. Because of these, producers need to feed accordingly.

    AgCenter plant pathologist and soybean specialist Boyd Padgett said selecting high-yielding, disease-resistant varieties is the foundation for an effective disease management program.

    He cautioned growers to look out for taproot decline. “The LSU AgCenter is conducting research to assess the disease’s impact on soybean production and to develop strategies for managing this disease,” he said.

    Soybean seed germination and quality are predicted to be lower compared to previous years because of the poor conditions when last year’s crop was harvested. “It will be particularly important that producers plant when conditions favor rapid germination and seedling establishment to avoid having to replant,” Padgett said.

    AgCenter weed scientist Daniel Stephenson said farmers should spray their fields for weeds four to six weeks prior to planting.

    When corn is planted in early to mid-March, herbicide application timing is flexible, so it can be applied preemergence or postemergence. “However, if corn planting is delayed until late March and into April, the first herbicide application in corn needs to be applied preemergence,” he said.

    In cotton and soybeans, residual herbicides applied preemergence and postemergence are a must for weed management, Stephenson said.

    AgCenter weed scientist Ron Strahan said pasture weeds lantana, sicklepod and perilla mint are toxic to cattle. In recent years, cattle in Natchitoches and Lincoln parishes have died after eating perilla mint.

    Johnsongrass can be toxic under stressed conditions such as drought or frost, he said.

    Buttercup can be controlled with 2,4-D at the rate of a pint per acre, Strahan said, and warm weather above 65 degrees is the best time to spray.

    AgCenter cotton and corn specialist Dan Fromme said applying the correct amount of nitrogen is crucial for cotton. “Excess nitrogen can hurt you in the wet years,” he said.

    Cotton grown on clay soils requires about 30 pounds of additional nitrogen per acre, he said.

    In 2017, a research field with 90 pounds of nitrogen per acre produced 1,967 pounds of lint, compared to 120 pounds of nitrogen that resulted in a lint yield of 1,867 pounds.

    Vince Deshotel, AgCenter central region beef cattle coordinator, said a new Louisiana Master Cattleman class will be held in Mansura starting in late July or early August. The cost will be $125 for the 10 sessions. Anyone interested in attending should contact him at Vdeshotel@agcenter.lsu.edu.

    Donna Morgan, AgCenter area agent with the Louisiana Master Farmer Program, reviewed worker protection standards and measures to be considered before spraying pesticides to reduce the chances of drift. The locations of beehives should be identified before spraying, she said.

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