Rainfall is a blessing most of the time for dryland peanut farmers along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but it can also be a curse for fighting peanut diseases. For peanut producer Steve Seward, crop rotation, diversity and a strong fungicide program help keep disease in check and yields consistently high.

Seward, who farms with his father, Bud, produces 4,600 acres of cotton, corn, peanuts, wheat, oats and ryegrass and grazes cattle in Jackson County, about 25 miles north of the coast and just west of the Alabama/Mississippi state line. Steve’s mother, Rita, manages the office.

Most of the crops on Seward Farms are rotated to manage disease, and many are double-cropped. “We’ll grow wheat, oats and ryegrass in the winter, and then follow them with cotton or peanuts in the summer,” Seward said.

The Sewards started growing peanuts in 2002 with the phase out of the quota system for peanuts, and now devote about 2,300 acres to the crop. Over the last dozen years, “Peanuts have been a good crop for us,” Seward said.

Peanuts have been good to other producers in Mississippi as well. According to USDA, harvested peanut acres in Mississippi increased from 14,000 acres in 2011 to 47,000 acres in 2012, thanks to expansion in the Mississippi Delta and northeast Mississippi. According to USDA’s Prospective Plantings report, Mississippi producers intended to plant 45,000 acres this spring.

The expansion was accompanied by new buying points for peanuts, which in turn has helped the peanut industry stabilize. That goes for on-farm infrastructure as well, according to Seward.

“Generally, any farmer getting into the peanut industry will have to acquire a lot of equipment specific to peanuts. So when you get there, you’re there,” said Seward, who also serves on the board of the Mississippi Peanut Growers Association.