The shift of acreage from corn to soybeans that began this spring could continue for another year, according to Farm Futures’ first survey of 2015 planting intentions. However, changes could be less dramatic as prices for both crops fall below the cost of production. The magazine released results of the survey on the opening day of the Farm Progress Show, held this week in Boone, Iowa, August 26-28. More than 1,300 growers were surveyed by email from July 21 to Aug. 4.

Another record soybean year possible in 2015
Growers indicated they’re planning 86.6 million acres of soybeans next spring, a 2.1 percent increase over the 84.8 million planted in 2014. While that would be another new record, the increase would be less than the 10.9 percent hike seen this year.

At the same time, farmers said they expect to cut back corn seedings again next year. The survey found initial planting intentions of 90.5 million acres, down 1.2 percent from the 91.6 million believed to be planted this year.

Strong soybean prices and fewer production risk
Bryce Knorr, Farm Futures senior grain market analyst, credited a strong ratio of soybean to corn prices for encouraging growers to shift ground. “The ratio of November 2015 soybean futures to December 2015 corn traded above 2.6 to 1 during late July and early August when we conducted the survey,” he says. “That’s a level that traditionally favors soybeans. Strong prices for remaining tight supplies of 2013 soybeans also gave the crop a psychological edge.”

Beans enjoy several other advantages, says Knorr. “They’re cheaper to grow than corn, which is important considering expectations for tighter cash flow into 2015. Plus many growers would like to get as close to a 50-50 rotation as possible.”

Consistent Midwest acre shift indicated
While farmers took on more bean acres recently on the fringes of the Midwest, the pattern for 2015 appears to be fairly consistent across the region, notes Knorr.  

Growers on the northern Plains could continue to shift wheat ground to soybeans, because the survey found overall spring wheat seeding intentions off 8.6 percent to 11.6 million, with durum ground also lower. However, winter wheat seedings set to begin soon could be up 3.1 percent, to 43.6 million, with all three classes of that crop seeing increases.

“Better moisture conditions on the central and southern Plains could convince growers to seed more hard red winter wheat, even though prices are lower than a year ago,” says Knorr. Total wheat acres could be up .6% to 56.8 million.

“Obviously, a lot could still change, especially for spring crops,” he adds. “Planting intentions are a snapshot in time and this is what growers were thinking at the end of this summer.”