Corn was the long-time rotation crop of choice for peanuts, before cotton acreage jumped in the Southeast over the past decade or so. Now, much of the irrigated land that once went to peanuts is planted to corn because of the consistent high yields produced under irrigation and the ongoing high prices being offered for the crop.

The increase in peanut acreage isn’t likely to come on the most productive land, leading some to speculate that higher acreage may not correlate to a corresponding increase in total peanut production for 2012.

Acreage increases in North Carolina appear to be tracking with projected acreage increases across the country.

The demand for grain as an export crop and the stability of prices projected well into 2013 appear to be driving planting intentions in the Southeast and across the country.

Nationwide corn production is expected to increase from about 92 million acres to nearly 96 million acres.

Soybean production is expected to decline nationally by about a million acres, down to 74 million acres.

Wheat production nationwide is expected to jump from 54.5 million acres to near 56 million acres for the 2012-2013 crop.

North Carolina and Georgia are the leading agricultural production states in the Southeast and trends in those two states tend to mirror what happens in the rest of the region. If that trend continues expect the percentage of total crop to change significantly from 2011 to 2012.

In North Carolina, in 2011 soybeans made up 41 percent of the state’s total planted row crop acreage. Corn was second with 26 percent and cotton a close third with 24 percent. Peanuts comprised 2 percent of the total acreage as did sweet potatoes, while tobacco had 5 percent.

In 2012, soybeans will up its leading acreage to 43 percent and corn will increase to 27 percent. Cotton will lose 3 percent, down to 21 percent of the state’s spring-planted row crop acreage. Peanuts will gain one percent, sweet potatoes will remain the same and tobacco will lose one percent.

Nationwide, Steve Maliszewski, with the National Agricultural Statistics Service in Washington D.C. says cotton acreage in the U.S. is expected to be down by about 11 percent.

Of the larger acreage producers in the Southeast, North Carolina will have the biggest percentage drop, though Georgia is expected to drop from 1.6 million acres to 1.4 million acres in 2012.

South Carolina and Virginia are both expecting a 10 percent or so reduction in acreage in 2012, and Alabama and Florida will remain close to 2011 acreage levels.

What happens over the next few weeks with weather and markets will likely cause some significant shifts in final acreage.

rroberson@farmpress.com