U.S. farmers boost corn plantings by more than expected

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CHICAGO, June 30 (Reuters) - U.S. farmers planted more corn than they had initially planned to take advantage of strong prices for the grain, the government said on Thursday.

U.S. soybean acreage was lower than the U.S. Agriculture Department's March outlook.

Concerns about limited corn exports from war-torn Ukraine this fall put the world's focus on the U.S. crop, the world's largest, encouraging farmers to plant the grain despite high fertilizer costs. Corn futures fell to their lowest since March after the planting report was released.

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USDA said that corn plantings totaled 89.921 million acres and soybean plantings totaled 88.325 million acres. Analysts were expecting the report to show corn acreage at 89.861 million and soybean acreage at 90.446.

In March, USDA said that farmers had planned to plant 89.490 million acres of corn and 90.955 million acres of soybeans, with lower fertilizer costs for the oilseed seen as incentive for seeding soy.

"Even though we had high input costs, people wanted to plant corn because the profit potential was higher," Don Roose, president of U.S. commodities in West Des Moines, Iowa, said.

Corn flourished in its early stages of development after a late start to planting due to wet and cool conditions around much of the Midwest. But crop conditions have deteriorated in recent weeks, with corn facing stress from high temperatures.

Planting was so late in the northern United States due to heavy rains that USDA said it would collect new data in three states and update acreage figures in August if warranted.

Farmers and traders are closely watching weather forecasts for the next few weeks as corn enters its pollination phase that will largely determine yields during the harvest that starts in September.

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Reporting by Mark Weinraub; Additional reporting by Karl Plume; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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