Diversity is making a comeback in U.S. cropland.
The declining popularity of corn and soybeans, predicted Thursday by the U.S. government, may mean wheat, cotton and other commodities literally regain ground they’ve lost in recent years.
The Department of Agriculture estimates the acreage for soybeans may drop 1.3 percent to 89 million acres this year, despite being projected to overtake corn as the most-planted crop for the first time since 1983. Soy sowings may be down or unchanged in 20 of the 31 states where production is tracked by the government.
Corn is predicted to drop 2.4 percent to 88 million acres; it may be unchanged or lower in 33 of the 48 states that estimate harvests.
Each crop has bright spots — soybean acres are seen rising in Indiana and corn in Colorado, for example. But the declines are more profound: the area in Ohio covered by soybeans is forecast to drop 4.9 percent while farmers in Iowa, the biggest grower, may plant 2 percent less. Corn in Minnesota, which ranks fourth in acreage, may drop 6.8 percent.
Farmers in parts of the country where multiple crops are viable are choosing alternatives to soy and corn, the two heavyweights that have dominated American agriculture over the past decade. Spring wheat acreage is forecast to gain 15 percent. Plantings in Minnesota may rise a whopping 38 percent while the increase in North Dakota may be 20 percent.
Cotton is one winner. Its acreage is predicted to advance by 6.8 percent. Sorghum, oats and rice are also expected to reclaim terrain.