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“Cotton has been our mainstay crop, going back to my father and grandfather,” says Robert Agostinelli, Jr., who farms with Charles Balducci near Clarksdale, Miss. But, this year they've added 450 acres of peanuts to their cotton/corn/soybean mix for the diversification and rotation benefits.
IN EARLY AUGUST, peanuts were making good progress for first-time growers Robert Agostinelli, Jr., left, and Charles Balducci, who farm together near Clarksdale, Miss.
Peanuts need less water
And says Charles Balducci, “With increasing concerns about the declining aquifer and water conservation in the Delta, peanuts are attractive because they can get by on less water and still produce a good crop.”
Ninety percent of their peanut ground can be irrigated and in early August, on a bone dry day, with dust devils dancing across fields, their peanuts under pivot were being watered for the fourth time.
But, says Agostinelli as he spades up a plant and shows the clump of peanuts that are forming, “The peanuts have been growing vigorously, vines are pegging well, and although we have no prior experience on which to base anything, the crop looks good right now. Some Georgia growers who were here and looked at our crop said it looks better than many in their state, where peanuts have been grown for decades.”
They planted GA 06G and FLA 07 varieties, about 50-50, starting April 14 and finishing April 24. All are on their sandier land.
“We’ve had a little white mold,” Agostinelli says, “but fungicides seem to be suppressing that. Our first application was Headline, followed by two applications of Artisan. Since peanuts haven’t been grown in this area, we’re told we likely won’t face the heavy disease pressures they have in the Southeast.”
For weed control, their initial burndown application was Touchdown and 2,4-D. “We followed that with Ignite and Prowl for some pigweeds and marestail that had come through,” he says. “We’ve had a few glyphosate-resistant pigweeds, but we’re careful to rotate chemistry and if we see any pigweed escapes in the field, we get them pulled out immediately. Thus far, they’ve not been a significant problem.
“Behind the planter, we applied 3 oz. of Valor and 1 pint of Dual per acre, followed by 3/4 pint of Dual plus Storm. We applied 16 oz. of Select for grass control, and we’ve done some spot treating with Cobra.”
Two applications of boron were made, at 1/2 lb. per acre each time
Looking toward harvest, Agostinelli says they purchased a KMC 6-row digger and a Colombo 6-row combine.
“Based on planting date, we’re hoping to start digging about mid-September, and we’re just keeping our fingers crossed for good harvest weather, which is critical for peanuts.”
If this year’s crop turns out well, he says, and there’s a good contract price next spring, “We could comfortably expand our peanuts to 600 acres. Any increase would come out of our cotton acreage.
“Cotton has been our mainstay crop, going back to my father and grandfather,” Agostinelli says. “But if soybean and corn prices stay strong and peanut acres hold steady or expand, I expect there will be even less cotton next year.
“My grandfather, Peter, came over on the boat from Italy, and was the first to farm here, growing cotton. My father, Robert, Sr., was a farmer all his life, and he my uncle Pete taught me all I know about the business.
“My father, my brother Mark, and I farmed together after I left college. We had 600 acres between us, and Mark and I were each 25 percent partners. I had attended Delta State University, majoring in business, but I knew all the time that farming was what I wanted to do — that’s where my heart was — so I came back to the farm.