2016 acreage preview: Watch for a drop in sorghum acres

In these challenging times, farmers must take a critical look at their operations when making crop planting decisions. Sorghum is coming off a 2015 higher-than-expected amount of 8.84 million planted acres, and this year, experts anticipate a drop in overall acres planted across much of the U.S.

"We saw a huge increase last year based on the Chinese price driver," says Florentino

Lopez, executive director of the Sorghum Checkoff in Lubbock, Texas. "We remain optimistic, and based on the last five years we have comfort in saying we will have 7.5 million to 8 million acres this year."

In 2016, sorghum growers intended to plant 7.22 million acres for all purposes, down 15% from 2015, according to USDA Prospective Planting report. Kansas and Texas are the leading sorghum producers and account for 74% of the expected U.S. acreage.

The drop comes from a variety of geographies across the U.S., but the biggest losses will likely come from areas that aren't typically strong in sorghum production.

Tennessee is "definitely going to go down, but more traditional areas won't drop as much," says Scott Stewart, professor of entomology and IPM Extension specialist at Tennessee. "They were up 20% last year and will look more normal this year."

In Tennessee, which is traditionally not a strong sorghum state, Stewart expects acreage to drop to a historical low of about 20,000 acres to 25,000 acres.

Other parts of the country appear to be a mixed bag—some areas will drop while some might increase. "We fell back in the Delta, and we'll see some pullback in the Texas High Plains from rotating to other crops," Lopez says. "In central Texas, they might have more acres, and Kansas should be relatively the same as last year."

Dropping acres are likely due to less attractive commodity prices, Lopez and Stewart agree.

But lower acres this year could potentially have a more lasting effect on worldwide demand for U.S. sorghum.

"I'm frankly concerned about a

potential loss in bushels," says Lopez. "China and the rest of the world have continued to show a need for sorghum and other grains. With a drop in available sorghum


from the U.S., they'll have to look for other countries as a source."

Lopez is concerned if U.S. farmers cannot produce enough supply to keep pace with current demand, American farmers might miss export opportunities with China and other countries.