The Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in its April Oil Crops Outlook confirmed U.S. farmers intend to plant more acres to oilseeds this year than ever before. Most of the increase to a record large area was attributed to soybeans, but producers also plan to plant more acres to canola, sunflower, cotton (cottonseed), flax and peanuts than they did a year ago.

The U.S.D.A., on the basis of a survey of producers’ spring planting intentions, projected soybean area planted for harvest this year at a record 78,098,000 acres, up 1% from 77,451,000 acres in 2009, the previous record.

The U.S.D.A. commented, “Gains in soybean acreage are anticipated principally in the western Corn Belt and northern Plains. Due to difficulties in completing last fall’s crop harvests and getting winter wheat sown on time, those areas had more unused cropland available for spring crops. Opportunities to double-crop soybeans after winter wheat this year will be fewer, but in the Midwest, that may be offset by additional cropland for first-crop soybeans.”

Farmers intend to plant 1,228,100 acres to canola this spring, up 49% from 827,000 acres in 2009. “Though below record acres planted eight to 10 years ago, attractive cash bids 8 spring are likely responsible for the sharp increase,” the U.S.D.A. said. “Canola acreage is expected to increase the most in North Dakota. Canola acreage also is expanding in Oklahoma, where it was virtually nonexistent a few years ago but this year is seen increasing to 80,000 acres. Producers in this state are planting winter varieties of canola as a way to diversify crop rotations and rely less exclusively on winter wheat. Last fall, canola prices were at a sizable premium to winter wheat. Winter canola varieties can attain yields that are 20% to 30% higher than the spring-sown varieties.”

Sunflowerseed plantings for harvest this year were forecast at 2,181,000 acres, up 7% from 2,030,000 acres in 2009. Non-oil varieties were expected to account for most of the increase. Non-oil (confectionery) sunflowerseed plantings were forecast at 467,000 acres, up 41% from 2009. Oil-type sunflowerseed plantings were forecast at 1,714,000 acres, up 1% from last year. “Sunflowerseed growers will favor sowing more of the non-oil varieties this year because of a larger-than-usual price premium relative to the oil-type varieties,” the U.S.D.A. said.

U.S. flaxseed acreage was projected at 420,000 acres, up 32% from 317,000 acres in 2009. It would be the first increase in flaxseed area since 2005.

Peanut plantings for harvest this year were projected at 1,201,000 acres, up 8% from 1,116,000 acres a year ago.

Area planted to cotton this year was forecast at 10,505,000 acres, up 15% from 9,149,200 acres in 2009. “Over the past year, cotton prices have strengthened considerably with a sharp reduction in stocks,” the U.S.D.A. said. The forecast increase in cotton planting might help reverse a long-term decline in cottonseed production.