While cotton will no doubt be king of crops in 2011 in the Southeast, the recently released USDA Planting Intentions Survey shows some interesting predictions for the Southeast region.

Perhaps the biggest differential in what farmers contend and what the March 31 USDA survey shows is a huge increase in wheat and barley, which doesn’t historically jive with a reduction in soybean acreage, which is predicted in most Southeast states.

Wheat at 80-90 bushels per acre and soybeans at 30-40 bushels per acre seem to be an economic juggernaut. Based on current pricing, a bushel of wheat and soybeans will sell for something close to $20 a bushel — more if the grower hits the market just right. Based on an average yield, that would produce over $1,000 per acre.

By comparison, two bale cotton at $1.10 a pound would produce — about $1,000 per acre.

In the Southeast in 2011, one word — cotton — seems to define what other crops will be planted.

While predicted increases in wheat would follow a predictable pattern of growers planting more of the crop to take advantage of high market prices, the reduction in soybean acreage doesn’t quite make sense. The double-crop pricing advantage of wheat and soybeans, even versus cotton, would seem to call for more soybeans.

The USDA survey predicts for wheat acreage in the Southeast an increase of acreage that ranges from 9 percent in Florida to 61 percent in Virginia. In North Carolina and Virginia, where cotton acreage is expected to jump by 51 and 36 percent, wheat acreage is expected to increase 61 and 40 percent.

In Alabama and Georgia, soybean acreage is predicted to fall 11 and 22 percent, respectively. Traditional cotton production areas in south Georgia and the Tennessee Valley of Alabama had significant increases in soybeans the past few years, but clearly cotton is taking most of those acres back in 2011. However, Alabama is projected to increase wheat production by 27 percent and Georgia by 47 percent.

For a look at what U.S. growers told USDA they planned to plant in 201, see http://southeastfarmpress.com/cotton/cotton-acres-expected-climb-15-percent.

South Carolina is a whole different anomaly according to the USDA report. Acreage in the Palmetto state is expected to increase in all major crops. The USDA report calls for increases in cotton by 29 percent, wheat by 38 percent, soybeans by 10 percent, peanuts by 4 percent and corn by 3 percent.