Farmers in the Texas Coastal Bend are taking advantage of higher grain prices this year, increasing corn and grain sorghum acreage and trimming back on cotton.

“Nueces County farmers have increased their corn and sorghum plantings by approximately 34,000 acres,” says County Extension Agent Harvey Buehring. “That number equals the reduction in cotton acres. Based on preliminary data from the Boll Weevil Eradication Zone office, the Nueces County Farmers reduced cotton planting by approximately 22 percent compared to 2004 to 2005.

“Farmers to the west in Jim Wells County made a much larger switch away from cotton,” Buehring says, a 41 percent cut.

“This year Jim Wells County farmers are only growing 12,000 acres of cotton. In 2005 they grew 29,000 acres. The last time Nueces County farmers planted fewer than 114,000 acres of cotton was in 1999 when they planted 110,400 acres. During that season better than average conditions occurred allowing the county to average 1.5 bales per acre and produced a total of 165,389 bales.”

Buehring says sustained cropping pattern changes can alter more than the rural landscape. “They often result in changes to farming communities. Such changes were easy to see during the 1960s and early 1970s when cotton prices were relatively low and feed grain prices were strong.

“Rural communities in the Coastal Bend areas saw construction of a number of new grain elevators and grain storage warehouses. During that same period, many smaller cotton gins in the Coastal Bend were sold and dismantled.”

He says in the late 1990s through 2005, a number of the older grain elevators were dismantled and some of the flat storage facilities for grain were converted to other uses.

“Now with the return to more grain production, concerns are surfacing about our capacity to handle and store a bumper grain crop with the remaining grain storage available in the region.”