Let’s begin with a quiz about the Corn Belt. Which state is increasing its corn acreage the most rapidly? Next question.  Is the heart of the Corn Belt increasing or decreasing in soybean acreage?  And finally, what is the acreage trend for wheat in the western Corn Belt?  For extra credit on this pop quiz, what is behind all of the dynamics described by your answers?

The answers to those questions may be quite surprising if you don’t already know about the trends in Corn Belt acreage.  The recent USDA Projected Plantings report indicated the trends would continue, for the most part.

However, University of Illinois ag economist Gary Schnitkey paints a surprising picture of acreage dynamics in Corn Belt states which has been driven by high prices of corn.  And that does not mean corn acreage is increasing in traditional areas.  However, the price of corn rose in 2006 along with other commodities and over the period from 2006 to 2012, Schnitkey says some very significant trends occurred.  In that period, corn acres increased by 24 percent, soybean acres increased by 2 percent and wheat acres decreased by 4 percent.


Corn acreage generally increased across the Corn Belt, and any counties with a decrease in corn acreage reported on minimal changes. The majority of counties reporting an increase indicated between 5,000 and 30,000 additional acres. About 10 percent of the counties with increased acreage reported increases up to 60,000 additional acres.  But that does not reflect the increase in corn acreage in North and South Dakota, which has increased at an exponential rate, of 60,000 acres and more per county.

Corn, soybean, and wheat acreage trends surprising


The 2 percent increase in Corn Belt soybean acreage from 2006 to 2012 is a rather misleading fact.  There were areas of substantial increases, but most of the heart of the Corn Belt from Ohio across to Iowa and up to Wisconsin and Minnesota reports a loss of acreage of up to 60,000 acres per county .  There were many farmers in the region that opted out of soybeans, while farmers in the Dakotas again ramped up their rate of soybean planting. That trend of increased soybean acreage continued southward through Nebraska and Kansas cutting through the heart of wheat country.

Corn, soybean, and wheat acreage trends surprising


Wheat was being displaced across the Great Plains, in part by corn.  The regions of North and South Dakota where corn acreage increased at the more rapid rates, displayed a correlating trend of fewer wheat acres.  Many counties indicated losses of 60,000 acres or more.  Wheat acreage did find resurgence in southwestern Kansas and in northern Montana.  Traditional wheat growing areas of Washington reported a wide variety of acreage trends.

Corn, soybean, and wheat acreage trends surprising


Corn production is occurring in non-traditional areas.  To make way, soybean and wheat acres have declined, except more soybeans are being raised in the Dakotas.  Traditional wheat areas are declining, except more wheat is being raised in Montana.

Source: FarmGate blog