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Source: Penton Agriculture news release

A wet spring and low prices kept many farmers from planting all the ground they wanted in 2015. While prices are still weak, Farm Futures' first survey of 2016 planting intentions shows growers planning expansion in the year ahead.

Results were reported Tuesday morning before the opening of the 2015 Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill. Farm Futures is the magazine and information resource for large-scale ag producers.

Acreage for most crops could be higher than farmers expected to put in this year, before spring rains washed out those hopes. The exception is wheat, which could lose ground due to low prices and more attractive alternatives.

The survey showed farmers ready to plant 89.65 million acres of corn, up around 1% from 2015. Most of that ground would come in the heart of the Corn Belt, though a few areas on the fringes of the Midwest could see a reduction.

Growth in soybean seedings could be even greater. Farmers reported they wanted to plant 86.32 million acres, a record if achieved. That would be 2.4% higher than the estimate USDA made in August after resurveying farmers in areas hit by heavy rains this spring.

Conditions last fall disrupted seeding of soft red winter wheat in the eastern Midwest and that class appears ready for a rebound. But other winter wheat ground could shrink, with growers looking to seed 40.4 million acres in all this fall, around 220,000 lower. Spring wheat seedings next spring could also fall around .5%, though durum acreage would continue to rebound. All wheat acreage could total 55.87 million, down around .4%

One alterative crop on the southern Plains is sorghum, which enjoyed a renaissance in 2015 thanks to a surge in exports to China. Growers are ready to put in more "milo," hoping to seed 10.14 million acres, the most since 2001 if achieved.

Cotton plantings could also rise, hitting 9.82 million, up 10.4% from 2015, when low prices and wet conditions slashed acreage.

"These intentions are a first look at what farmers are thinking as they face a difficult outlook in the year ahead," said Bryce Knorr, Farm Futures market analyst, who conducted the survey. "While profit margins remain in the red, farmers are reluctant to cut acreage, knowing that volatile crop prices can turn around quickly if weather problems emerge."

Soybeans continue to attract ground all over their growing region, in part because costs are lower than alternatives. "Cash flow is tight, making soybeans easier to finance in a year when more growers will be increasing operating lines of credit," said Knorr.

Farm Futures conducted its survey from July 17 to August 3. Growers were sent an email invitation to report their acreage in an online survey.

Crop, Acreage to be planted, change from USDA August 2015 estimate:

Corn...89.65 million...+0.8%

Soybeans...86.32 million...+2.4%

Soft Red Winter Wheat...8 million...5.2%

Hard Red Winter Wheat...29.2 million...-1.2%

White Winter Wheat...3.1 million...-8.7%

All Winter Wheat...40.4 million...-0.6%

Spring Wheat...13.4 million...-0.5%

Durum...2.1 million...+5.8%

All Wheat...55.87 million...-0.4%

Sorghum...10.14 million...+16.0%

Cotton...9.82 million...+10.4%

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