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Agricola, Miss., peanut producer Hugh Pierce's peanut/cotton rotation helps manage disease, but peanuts pay the bills.
Agricola, Miss., farmer Hugh Pierce says peanuts are the money maker in his peanut-cotton rotation program.
It’s late May and Agricola, Miss., farmer Hugh Pierce needs to be on the planter. But heavy and frequent rains along the Mississippi Gulf Coast this spring have made this planting season very much a stop-and-go operation.
So Pierce walks off the nervous energy around the shop and office, located just off Hwy. 612, in George County, chatting up his secretary, Wendy Danley, teasing his labor force, keeping up a good front, even as another band of thunderstorms rolls in from the west.
Pierce knows bad weather comes with the job, but it’s not the frequency of rain this spring that concerns him, it’s the rate at which it’s been falling. In late April, the nearby Mobile Regional Airport reported 11 inches in one day. Some areas reported as much as 5 inches falling in one hour.
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“It’s been a nightmare,” Pierce said. “About the time we get dried out and going good, here comes another monsoon. We haven’t been getting showers. We’ve been getting floods. Ten inches of rain isn’t anything anymore. We haven’t had to replant anything yet, and everything we’ve planted is up. But we’re behind.”
2,700 acres of peanuts
Pierce farms in six counties in Alabama and Mississippi, producing about 2,000 acres of cotton, 2,700 acres of peanuts, 1,300 acres of wheat, 200 acres of oats for grazing around 1,100 calves and 170 acres of watermelons.
He farms about 40 miles north of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where the sandy loam soil and sub-tropical climate is perfectly suited for peanuts. Grown in this region since around 2003, peanuts are the money-making partner in Pierce’s peanut-cotton rotation program, thanks to yields that can approach 2.5 tons per acre.
For peanuts following cotton, Pierce will burn down with Roundup and Valor in February. He’ll disk twice, one of those times to incorporate lime and fertilizer (300 pounds of 9-23-30, which is primarily a benefit for the following cotton crop), run an Orthman,12-row strip-till and plant peanuts in twin-rows on 36-inch rows, along with an inoculant.