Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia all were among the top driest areas of the country. Moisture will likely play a key role in what some growers plant.

In areas where glyphosate resistant weeds are a problem, the lack of moisture may steer them away from some crops that require pre-emerge herbicides as part of their management strategies to reduce competition from herbicide resistant weeds.

Corn planting is well under way in the southern part of the Southeast and has started or is near a start throughout the region.

Late March rains helped in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, but did not take many areas out of a moisture deficit situation. How much this affected corn planting is not certain, but could open up even more acreage for later planted cotton.

Dramatic increases in the middle class in China, India and other Asian countries has spurred demand for many things once the primary domain of western cultures. People with money in these rapidly developing countries want cars, cotton clothes, high protein meat products, and they apparently want tobacco.

The USDA report predicts a slight increase in flue-cured tobacco and a 3 percent drop in burley acreage in 2011. Georgia is expected to see a 5 percent increase in tobacco acreage, while Kentucky and South Carolina are expected to lose 8-9 percent of their tobacco acreage.

North Carolina is the largest sweet potato growing state in the Southeast and acreage is going up, according to the USDA farmer survey. A 9 percent increase in acreage, which is what the survey projects, would push acreage up to more than 60,000 acres for 2011.

Other sweet potato producing states are expected to remain near 2010 acreage levels, except for Florida, which is projected to lose 9 percent.

Nationally, corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat production is predicted to increase by 10 percent over 2010. Price is the driving force, with cotton up 142 percent and corn 82 percent. Acreage for the top four row crops is expected to top 240,000,000 in 2011.

Already the price increase being paid for grain is appearing in grocery store markups on food. Rises in energy costs and continued high prices for cotton have forced some stores in the U.S. to raise prices, despite a stagnant comeback by the U. S. economy.

Where all the extra acres will come from makes this one of the most interesting planting seasons in many years. For one possibility on the question of additional acreage, visit http://southeastfarmpress.com/grains/corn-may-grab-acres-kentucky-pastures-hay-fields.

rroberson@farmpress.com