Finding a good crop to grow in harmony with cotton was an ongoing challenge for Luray, S.C., grower Bud Bowers, but a decade or so ago he found a near perfect match: peanuts.

Now, the crop is an integral part of his farming operation.

Corrin F. Bowers, Jr., known to one and all as Bud, is the 2012 Peanut Profitability winner for the Virginia-Carolina peanut-producing belt. He grows about 600 acres of peanuts and 1,200 acres of cotton on his farm, located about 100 miles west of Charleston, S.C.

After graduating from the University of South Carolina in 1975, farming was undergoing some serious problems, and his father didn’t want him to be a farmer. So, Bud started his professional life selling specialty advertising products.

“But, I knew I wanted to farm,” he says, “and I thought I wanted to be a peach grower,” he says.

So, in 1976, he went back to the farm, growing corn, soybeans, cotton and peaches. After a rough start in drought-plagued 1976 and 1977, the peach business finally came around and did well into the 1980s.

In 1986, he had a complete crop failure with peaches, forcing him to take some unwanted steps in order to survive.

“By the mid-1990s,” Bud says, “I finally realized I couldn’t make it growing peaches here — our climate is too prone to hot, humid weather and early spring freezes.”

He went through some tough times trying to get out of the peach business and find a different crop mix.

“Without the support of my wife, Sallie, I couldn’t have made it,” he says. “She comes from a farm background, and she knew some of the things I was going through.”

Now married more than 31 years, Bowers says Sallie’s support and that of his family have played a big role in whatever success he’s had in farming.

His daughter, now Louisa Beach, helped with the business side of his farming operation, doing weekly payroll and taxes. His son, Corrin F. Bowers III, now farms in partnership with him.

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The soil and climate in the southeast corner of South Carolina, where he farms, is ideal for growing cotton, and after peaches were gone, Bud significantly expanded his cotton acreage. But, finding a second or third crop to go along with cotton proved a more difficult task.

In 2002 serendipity came calling: The peanut allotment program was gone; peanuts had never been grown on most of his land, reducing potential disease risks; and prices were good compared to other crops. So, he got into the peanut business.

“I was interested in peanuts because I have irrigation,” he says. “The first year, I planted some Virginia-type peanuts under irrigation and some dryland. We made a big crop both ways, but yield was especially good under irrigation.

“In years when our dryland peanuts haven’t been especially good, we’ve found they tend to clean up the land, and we make better cotton and corn on that ground in following years.

His peanuts are grown as part of three entities. He and son Corrin have one farming operation; he also farms on his own; and he farms with long-time friend and neighbor, Mickey Ginn. Combined, Bud plants about 600 acres of peanuts annually.

In addition to peanuts, he still plants about 1,200 acres of cotton and about 200 acres of corn. The rotation, he says, has worked out well for all the crops he grows.

“We usually plant peanuts in front of cotton on our irrigated land. Sometimes there is a carryover of Cadre, which we use on peanuts, and it can affect cotton. But, irrigation tends to flush out the Cadre residue.”

Disease is a big concern for most peanut growers, but Bud says, planting peanuts on land not historically used for that crop has been a plus.

“We want to continue to keep disease pressure to a minimum, so we usually extend our peanut rotation to four years. In some fields we can plant peanuts every three years.”

This year was really tough at planting time. Despite having irrigation on about half of his land, he was delayed in planting due to an extreme lack of moisture.

Typically, he plants cotton from late April to mid-May and peanuts from early May up to May 20. This year, he couldn’t start planting cotton because the soil was too dry.