North Carolina farmers say they will plant more acres of cotton, peanuts and sweet potatoes this year compared with 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Prospective Plantings report released March 31.

But farmers intend to plant less wheat, soybeans and tobacco, the report said.

Farmers’ plans to plant 540,000 acres of cotton mark a sharp turnaround for the crop. The 44 percent increase in acreage follows three consecutive years of declines.

Cotton acreage had been on a downward spiral as farmers switched to soybeans and corn, which were paying better prices,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Now, worldwide cotton supply is lower, which means higher demand and better prices for farmers.”

Peanuts are also enjoying a resurgence, with the projected planting of 80,000 acres representing a 19 percent increase over last year.

Sweet potato plantings are forecast to be 50,000 acres, a 6 percent increase. The projected acreage for sweet potatoes is the largest since 1950.

Wheat plantings this year are expected to be 550,000 acres, down 21 percent from a year ago. The drop is likely the result of lower prices and wet weather last fall, which kept many farmers from planting the crop, Troxler said.

Plantings of soybeans will be down 8 percent, to 1.65 million acres. “It appears that growers are switching from soybeans to cotton,” Troxler said. “Rotating crops helps the soil, and improved prices for cotton certainly are encouraging that rotation this year.”

Tobacco acreage is forecast to be 167,600, a 6 percent decrease that reflects a reduction in growers’ contracts with tobacco companies, Troxler said.

North Carolina’s corn plantings are projected to be the same as last year, 870,000 acres.

The North Carolina report is online at www.ncagr.gov/stats/release/CropRelease03.pdf.