Piles of corn cobs, corn harvest
Corn plantings seen up 6 percent, wheat down 9 percent, soybeans down slightly from 2015.

WASHINGTON — The US Dept. of Agriculture in its annual Prospective Plantings report surprised the trade with a larger-than-expected increase in 2016 corn planting intentions but lower-than-expected wheat and soybean intentions.

The USDA said farmers intend to plant 93,601,000 acres of corn in 2016, up 6 percent from 2015, the highest since 2013 and the third highest since 1944. The USDA number was above trade expectations that averaged near 90.047 million acres and ranged from 89 million to 91.5 million.

The USDA said farmers intend to plant more corn in 2016 mainly because of expected higher returns relative to other crops.

Soybean planting intentions totaled 82,236,000 acres, down less than 1 percent from 2015, the USDA said. The USDA number fell within the range of trade expectations but was below the average of 82.946 million acres.

Corn futures were sharply lower shortly after the report, with soybean futures down slightly on spillover pressure from corn despite the lower soybean acreage forecast. Spring wheat futures were sharply higher after the report, and helped pull hard red and soft red winter futures higher as well.