WASHINGTON — The National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on March 31 projected area planted to all-wheat for harvest in 2009 at 58,638,000 acres, down 7% from the year before. Plantings increased during the previous three years because of escalating prices. The 2008 all-wheat area was the largest since 1998. This year’s smaller planted area for wheat reflected growers’ response to the wheat market’s plunge since all-time highs were registered in the winter of 2008.

The acreage forecast, published in the annual Prospective Plantings report, was right in line with trade expectations. The report offered the first survey-based estimate of farmers’ 2009 planting intentions for all major crops and was based on a survey of 86,000 farmers during the first two weeks of March.

At 58,638,000 acres, the all-wheat forecast hovered not far above wheat area lows of recent years — 57,229,000 acres in 2005 and 57,344,000 in 2006. Acreage would be down 34% from the record of 88,251,000 acres in 1981.

Area planted to winter wheat alone exceeded 58.6 million acres during three years in the 1980s and approached this year’s all-wheat figure as recently as 1990, when 56,748,000 acres were planted to winter wheat.

Total area planted to all principal crops in 2009 was forecast to decrease by 7.8 million acres, or 2.4%, from last year. Projected corn acreage, down 1% from last year, was in line with trade expectations. The forecast for soybeans, while the largest ever, fell significantly shy of trade expectations.

Within the wheat data, NASS said farmers intend to plant 13,304,000 acres to spring wheat other than durum in 2009, down 6% from 14,135,000 acres in 2008. Acreage was 13,292,000 in 2007.

Acreage was projected to decrease only moderately in North Dakota, the largest spring wheat state. At 6,600,000 acres, plantings were projected to decrease 3% from 6,800,000 acres in 2008. North Dakota would account for 50% of all area planted to spring wheat other than durum.

Among the principal other spring wheat states, acreage in 2009 was forecast to be down 5% from 2008 in Minnesota, 12% in Montana and 6% in South Dakota. Plantings were expected to decrease 11% in Idaho and 28% in Oregon while rising 6% in Washington.

Seedings of durum wheat in 2009 were projected at 2,445,000 acres, down 10% from 2,731,000 acres in 2008 but up from 2,156,000 acres in 2007. Acreage would be down 57% from the record of 5,648,000 acres in 1981.

North Dakota durum acreage in 2009 was forecast at 1,600,000 acres, down 11% from 1,800,000 acres in 2008 but above 1,480,000 acres in 2007. North Dakota would account for 65% of durum plantings.

Montana, the largest durum state other than North Dakota and accounting for 22% of plantings, was forecast at 540,000 acres, down 8% from 2008.

Winter wheat plantings for harvest in 2009 were estimated at 42,889,000 acres, down 7% from 46,281,000 in 2008 and the smallest since 40,575,000 acres in 2006. The forecast was up 791,000 acres from the initial winter wheat seeding estimate issued by the U.S.D.A. in January. Changes from January in winter wheat states with more than 1 million acres planted were increases of 100,000 acres in California to 2,500,000 acres, 400,000 in Oklahoma to 5,800,000 acres, 200,000 in Texas to 6,100,000 acres and 60,000 in Washington to 1,800,000 acres.

Breaking down the winter wheat planted area, the U.S.D.A. indicated 30.9 million acres were hard red winter wheat, 8.38 million acres were soft red winter wheat and 3.65 million acres were white winter wheat.

Corn area for harvest in 2009 was forecast at 84,986,000 acres, down 1% from 85,982,000 acres in 2008. The record for corn plantings was 93,600,000 acres in 2007.

Plantings of soybeans for harvest in 2009 were projected at a record 76,024,000 acres, up 306,000 acres, or less than 1%, from 75,718,000 acres in 2008. The forecast was well below trade expectations that averaged more than 79 million acres.

Plantings of oats in 2009 were forecast at 3,400,000 acres, up 6% from 3,217,000 acres in 2008. Barley planted area was projected at 3,953,000 acres, down 7% from 4,234,000 acres in 2008.

Sorghum plantings in 2009 were forecast at 6,960,000 acres, down 1,324,000 acres, or 16%, from 8,284,000 acres in 2008. While still greater than the 6,454,000 acres planted to sorghum in 2005 and 6,522,000 acres in 2006, the drop from 2008 resumes a long-term move away from sorghum planting in the United States. At 6,960,000 acres, plantings were well beneath the range of 9.3 million to 13.2 million acres in the 1990s, 10.3 million to 18.3 million acres in the 1980s and the record of 26.9 million acres in 1957.

Canola plantings were forecast at 857,000 acres in 2009, down 154,000 acres, or 15%, from 1,011,000 acres in 2008. Plantings of canola would be the smallest since 671,000 acres in 1997, when canola production was just ramping up following its introduction during the 1980s. The record for canola planted acreage was 1,555,000 acres in 2000.

Sunflower plantings were forecast at 2,070,000 acres in 2009, down 18% from 2,516,500 acres in 2008.

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