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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s leading cash crop this year is soybeans, valued at more than $300 million, a University of Tennessee agricultural economist said Wednesday.

 Dr. Charles Farmer of the UT Agricultural Extension Service said cotton, with a value of about $240 million, will rank second; followed by tobacco, which is expected to add approximately $200 million to the state’s economy.

 Cotton was last year’s largest cash crop, but this year farmers increased soybean acreage by 10 percent.

 “This is almost an unprecedented increase,” Farmer said. “An increase of 1 or 2 percent would be more typical.”<p. Farmer said the increase was due to higher yields per acre, favorable prices, and new legislation that ties agricultural production closer to market demand.

Tennessee farmers harvested 36 bushels per acre this year — much closer to the national average of 39.2 bushels per acre, Farmer said.

 “Over the past 10 years Tennessee yields per acre have lagged behind the national average by 25 to 30 percent,” Farmer said. “Tennessee producers have closed the gap to only 7 percent.”

 Farmer also said:

 — Cotton producers harvested 500,000 acres this year, down from 530,000 acres a year ago. Much of the 6 percent decline represented acreage planted in soybeans rather than cotton.

 — Burley tobacco acreage was up 6 percent, but yields were down from an average of 2,000 pounds per acre to 1,700 due to unfavorable weather and disease problems.

 — Tennessee’s corn crop was worth about $190 million with acreage and yield down. Soybeans claimed some acreage previously planted in corn and yields were down due to dry weather in June and July.

 Contact: Dr. Charles Farmer (423-974-7271)