Although soil moisture conditions are much improved over last year, higher prices for fuel and fertilizer, in addition to lower commodity prices, appear to have tempered the planting intentions of farmers in the lower Southeast, including Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

Results from Georgia's first planting intentions survey of the 2001 production season reveal that the state's farmers are planning to increase their hay and soybean acreage, according to the Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service.

Grower planting intentions collected during the first two weeks of March also indicate that peanuts, corn and tobacco will show a decrease from last year. Farmers intend to reduce peanut acreage by two percent from the 2000 level, while wheat acreage is expected to be unchanged from last year's numbers.

“Final planting decisions will depend on weather conditions, financing, commodity prices and even reactions to the report,” says David Abbe, state statistician. “Some plantings have been delayed due to above-normal rainfall during March.”

Georgia cotton

Cotton acreage in 2001 is expected to be 1.5 million acres, the same as in 2000, but 30,000 acres more than in 1999. Cotton is viewed by growers as one of the better alternatives, even with the difficulties of the 2000 crop and low prices. Farmers hope usage will increase as the Asian economies regain strength.

Peanut producers in Georgia plan to decrease their planting by about two percent in 2001, as the availability of water continues to be a concern. If these early projections prove accurate, peanut acreage in Georgia will total 480,000 acres or 12,000 acres below last year.

Corn planting for 2001 is expected to total 300,000 acres. This would be a significant decrease of 25 percent from last year. Some corn plantings in the southern part of the state were delayed due to wet conditions.

Soybean acreage for this year is expected to increase by 200,000 acres. This is 20,000 acres, or 11 percent above 2000 plantings. If these early plans hold true, soybean planting in Georgia will be the second lowest since 1964. The lowest level since 1964 was experienced this past year.

Tobacco growers also are planning a reduction in acreage from last year. This would be the sixth consecutive year of declines in Georgia's tobacco acreage. Acreage for 2001 is expected to total 27,000 acres or 13 percent less than in 2000. Transplanting was off to slow start due to wet weather conditions.

Sorghum planting for 2001 is expected to total 55,000 acres — the same as in 2000 and 5,000 acres more than in 1999. Producers continue to look for drought-tolerant crops in Georgia.

Wheat seedings for 2001 totaled 300,000 acres, unchanged from 2000 and unchanged from 1999. A drier-than-normal winter allowed growers to plant their original intentions.

Oats planted in Georgia totaled 100,000 acres for 2001, up 43 percent from the 70,000 acres planted in 2000, as growers look for alternatives to the higher costs of other small grains. Oats expected to be harvested for grain totaled 40,000 acres, up 14 percent from 2000.

Hay acreage expected to be harvested for 2001 is forecast at 700,000 acres. This is eight percent more than the 650,000 acres harvested in 2000 and 100,000 acres more than in 1999.

Sweet potato planting is expected to total 600 acres, unchanged from last year.

Record lows in Alabama

While Alabama farmers intend to increase their cotton acreage slightly in 2001, the state will see record-low acreages of corn and soybeans, according to the Alabama Agricultural Statistics Service.

“Farmers” planting intentions have shifted because of high fertilizer and seed costs along with low commodity prices,” says Herb Vanderberry, state statistician. “Soil moisture has been adequate to surplus in most areas, a welcome change from last year's drought.”

Alabama growers intend to plant 600,000 acres of cotton or two percent more than last year's 590,000 acres. Corn planted in Alabama will be at a new record-low of 190,000 acres. This is 40,000 acres or 17 percent below last year's acreage.

Planting intentions for soybeans continued to decline with a record-low 160,000 acres to be seeded. This acreage, if realized, would be 16 percent below last year's 190,000 acres. This compared with the record-high 2.2 million acres planted in 1979 and 1980 when soybean prices were much higher.

Peanut acreage is expected to decrease slightly this year to 195,000 acres. This is 5,000 acres, or two percent, below last year's acreage.

Wheat for grain and other purposes is placed at 190,000 acres this year, a substantial increase over last year's 140,000 acres. Producers expect to cut 800,000 acres of hay this year, after a poor harvest in 2000 due to drought conditions.

More peanuts in Florida

Florida farmers have indicated that they intend to plant more peanuts and less corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat in 2001 than in 2000. The acreage of hay and tobacco will remain the same as last year.

Corn producers in the Panhandle expect to plant 78,000 acres, down eight percent from last year's 85,000 acres. The acreage planted to cotton is expected to be 120,000 acres or eight percent less than last year's 130,000-acre crop.

Peanut acreage in Florida is expected to be 95,000 acres in 2001. This is up one percent from last year's crop of 94,000 acres. Soybean acreage is expected to be 15,000 acres, down 25 percent from last year's 20,000-acre crop.

Florida tobacco

Tobacco growers in Florida expect to plant 4,500 acres in 2001 or the same as in 2000. The winter wheat acreage, at 10,000 acres, is down 23 percent from a year earlier.

e-mail: phollis58@mindspring.com