Peanut yields vary widely from one end of Mississippi to the other as a result of the 2006 drought.

Mississippi State University Extension Service agronomists anticipate the state average to be near 3,000 pounds per acre, compared to last year's 3,750 pounds. In 2005, Mississippi growers produced the second highest state average in the country.

Mike Howell, Extension area agronomic crops agent based in Covington County, said peanut fields in north Mississippi had adequate moisture at planting time, but then missed the few scattered showers throughout the growing season.

“Most of those fields will have a short crop this year. I've heard yields as low as 1,000 pounds per acre in the Aberdeen area,” Howell said. “In the southern counties, yields are better, some producing as much as 5,000 pounds in the Hattiesburg area.”

The drought that reduced most of the Mississippi crop also impacted other peanut-producing states. Howell said the state's average should still be higher than predicted yields in Alabama of 1,900 pounds per acre or Georgia with slightly more than 2,000 pounds expected.

“Nationally, peanut acreage went down about 25 percent because of tomato spotted-wilt virus problems last year. Mississippi's acreage actually went up about 10 percent to just under 16,000 acres,” Howell said.

Mike Steede, Extension director for George County, Miss., said many growers have only recently started growing peanuts.

“When you have just invested in peanut equipment, you have to use it,” Steede said. “Peanuts are still a new crop in most parts of Mississippi.”

Steede said prices are slightly better than a year ago when farmers produced for the loan rate, which is $355 per ton. Many producers were offered contracts ranging from $365 to $380 per ton.

Acreage has been increasing since 2002 when Mississippi growers planted 2,000 to 3,000 acres in peanuts. The 2002 farm bill removed the quota system and allowed growers to choose how many acres of peanuts they wanted to plant. Steede said some cotton and corn producers are exploring the profitability of peanuts in their rotations.