US soybean plantings next year will set a record by smaller margin than had been thought, Informa Economics said, despite a growing signal from the futures market to plant the oilseed in preference to corn.
Informa slashed by nearly 1.9m acres, to 81.929m acres, its forecast for US soybean plantings for the 2014 harvest.
That would still represent a record, handsomely bearing the current high of 77.451m acres set in 2009, and this year's total of 76.5m acres.
However, some look more likely to put a little more acreage down to corn than had been thought, with the consultancy raising its estimate for plantings of the grain by 300,000 acres to 91.846m acres.
That would represent a historically high figure, if below this year's 95.3m acres of plantings.
Informa said that a survey of farmers "suggested a slightly stronger desire to plant corn than previously indicated by Informa's analysis of relative crop economics.
"Survey indications also pointed to fewer soybean acres."
This result defies a growing incentive from futures markets for farmers to plant soybeans rather than corn.
The price ratio of November 2014 soybean futures compared with the December 2014 corn contract, the benchmark new crop lots, reached 2.59 this week, up from less than 2.15 in early May, and well into territory viewed as encouraging oilseed plantings come spring.
On Wednesday, when November 2014 soybeans were trading at 11.64 ½ a bushel and December 2014 corn at $4.52 ½ a bushel, the ratio was 2.57:1.
"At such a high ratio, soybean profitability is higher than corn in many areas and supports a large acreage swap to beans," one US broker said.
Morgan Stanley said in an outlook report for 2014 that "on a relative basis", soybeans were "at their most competitive in over five years".
This would "provide farmers justification to move back to a more normal soybean rotation after years of corn-on-corn", the bank said.
Although returns were roughly even of plantings corn or soybeans after a corn crop this year "given the agronomic benefits of planting a conventional corn-soy rotation, we expect that farmers will give the tie to soybeans".
That said, it forecast soybean area of 80.5m acres and corn plantings of 92.5m acres, signalling a less extreme swing from the grain to the oilseed than Informa foresees.
Informa also nudged lower its forecast for US wheat sowings for the 2014 harvest, to 57.855m acres from a previous estimate of 58.1m acres.
The decline reflected a cut of 240,000 acres to 42.866 acres in the estimate for US winter wheat sowings.
US growers planted 56.2m acres of wheat for the latest harvest.
Informa said: "Both durum and spring wheat seedings were significantly limited by excessive moisture last season.
"As a result, both crops are expected to rebound from last year's lower area, assuming normal 2014 planting conditions."