WASHINGTON — U.S. growers will plant and harvest more wheat and corn acres in 2019 but fewer soybean acres, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Projections to 2028. After 2019, wheat acres will decline and then flatten and not reach the level forecast for the coming year in the rest of the 10-year outlook period. Corn acres were forecast to increase for two years before settling into a narrow, mixed range through 2028. Soybean plantings were forecast to drop sharply in 2019 and then expand slowly for nine years.
The U.S.D.A. forecast wheat plantings for 2019 at 51 million acres, up 6.6% from 47.8 million acres in 2018 and an 11% increase from 2017. But the trendline peaks there as wheat acres were projected to fall from 2020 through 2022 before flattening to between 48 million and 49 million acres through 2028. Projected wheat plantings for 2019 would be the highest since 2015, but down 42% from the record-high 88.3 million acres planted in 1981.
Harvested acres of wheat were seen following a similar trajectory, increasing in 2019 to 43.1 million acres, a 9% increase from 39.6 million acres in 2018 and a 15% increase over 2017. Harvested acreage was forecast to decline in 2020 to 2021 before hitting a plateau between 40.6 million and 41.5 million acres through 2028.
All-wheat yields in 2019 were projected at 47.8 bus per harvested acre compared with 47.6 bus per acre in 2018 and 46.3 bus per acre in 2017. Yields were seen trending steadily higher each year through 2028.
The U.S.D.A. projected wheat production in 2019 at 2,060 million bus, up 9% from 1,884 million bus in 2018. Production in later years wasn’t forecast to rise to the 2019 level until 2024. By the end of the 10-year span, wheat production was projected at 2,087 million bus in 2028.
Meanwhile, planted and harvested corn acreages were seen rising over the next two years before settling into a narrow range through 2028. Area planted to corn in 2019 was forecast at 92 million acres, a 3.2% increase from 2018. Corn plantings were forecast to peak at 93 million acres in 2020 and hold at that level through 2023 before beginning to decline to 91.5 million acres at the end of the 10-year outlook. At no time in the next 10 years was corn planted area expected to fall below 91.5 million acres.
Harvested corn acres were seen rising 3.4% from 2018 to 84.6 million acres in 2019. Harvested area was expected to peak in 2020 at 85.6 million acres, hold at that level through 2023 and then decline to 84.1 million acres in 2028.
The U.S.D.A. forecast corn yield falling 2.3% in 2019 to 176.5 bus per acre, marking a return to the long-term trendline from last year’s record yield, before rising 2 bus per year in each of the next nine crop years.
The U.S.D.A. saw corn production rising 1% in 2019 to 14,930 million bus which, if realized, would be the second-largest outturn on record after 15,148 million bus in 2016. Following a 350-million-bu increase projected for 2020 to a new record outturn at 15,280 million bus, U.S. corn production was projected to set a new record in each subsequent year of the long-term projection period and reach 16,355 million bus in 2028.
Unlike wheat and corn, soybean area in 2019 was forecast to drop sharply from the current year. The U.S.D.A. forecast soybean plantings in 2019 at 82.5 million acres, down 6.6 million acres, or 7%, from 89.1 million acres in 2018. If the projection is realized, farmers in 2019 would have planted the fewest acres to soybeans since they seeded 76.8 million acres in 2013. The recent five-year average planted area for soybeans was 85.7 million acres. The soybean planted area set a record at 90.1 million acres in 2017.
The U.S.D.A.’s 10-year outlook projected soybean planted area to expand slowly from 2019 and reach 85.5 million acres in 2027 and 2028. The unmistakable takeaway was the U.S.D.A. thinks soybean planted area has peaked and the 2017 record seedings was not likely to be surpassed in the foreseeable future, certainly not in the next 10 years.
The U.S.D.A. projected harvested area of soybeans in 2019 at 81.8 million acres, down 6.5 million acres, or 7%, from 88.3 million acres in 2018 and compared with the record-large harvested area of 89.5 million acres in 2017. Harvested area was expected to increase incrementally after 2019 and 2020 (the 2020 area was forecast to equal that of 2019) and reach 84.7 million acres in both 2027 and 2028.
In 2018, the average soybean yield set a record at 53.1 bus per acre. The U.S.D.A. projected average soybean yield in 2019 to drop to 50 bus per acre, which would mark a return to the multi-year trendline. Average yield was forecast to increase steadily along this trendline from 2019. Yield was expected to eclipse the 2018 record in 2025 and reach 55 bus per acre at the end of the 10-year span.
The U.S.D.A. forecast soybean production in 2019 at 4,090 million bus, down 600 million bus, or 13%, from a record 4,690 million bus in 2018. Production in subsequent years of the 10-year outlook was projected to increase steadily and reach 4,655 million bus in 2025, still shy of the 2018 record.