Crop Plantings

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Farmers will grow fewer soybeans this year because of the rapidly spreading Asian rust disease and low prices. The U-S- Agriculture Department predicts that growers will plant less wheat, more cotton and more corn than they did in 2004.

The crop outlook released is in the USDA's prospective plantings report.

Concerned about whether farmers are aware of Asian rust, the department surveyed 68-thousand farms in the 31 states where soybeans are produced.

Nine in 10 soybean growers said they knew about the disease. Still, only one in 10 farmers said it factored into their planting decisions. Of those, half said they would reduce their soybean plantings.

The disease spreads in reddish-brown blotches on growing leaves,
weakening the plant and reducing farmers' yields.

USDA says the biggest declines in soybean plantings will come in North Dakota and South Dakota, where depressed prices have prompted some growers to switch to other crops, and in the Mississippi Delta and Southeast, where rust has already been discovered.

On the Net:
Agriculture Department's National Agricultural Statistics