Good cotton prices are having a negative impact on peanut acreage in Mississippi this spring. On the other hand, this could encourage some producers to adopt rotations that do a better job of breaking up disease which is starting to show up in some fields, according to Lucedale, Miss., producer Mike Steede, who is a retired Mississippi State University Extension Service director for George County.

Mississippi peanut acreage is projected at 16,000 acres in 2011, a decline of 3,000 acres from last year and 5,000 acres from 2009. Total U.S. peanut acres for 2011 is projected at 1.237 million acres. Georgia is the largest peanut producer in the United States with 540,000 acres expected for 2011.

“Cotton has whittled away a little bit at acres,” Steede said. “In our area (south Mississippi), I really believe cotton prices are going to push producers into a more proper rotation. We really need a couple of cotton crops between peanut crops. A lot of producers around here have been doing a year of peanuts and a year of cotton, but the price of peanuts has not moved at all.”

Steede himself is rotating completely out of peanuts this spring, saying he needs to break up a disease cycle. “We raise vegetables, too, and we use peanuts and corn as a rotation for them. We had a field that we usually plant peanuts on that we really needed to do something different on. So we went with vegetables instead.”

Steede says peanut producers in south Mississippi are starting to see more disease pressure, after several years of producing 3,500 pounds to 5,000 pounds per acre with few fungicide applications. “Our producers down here are now on a good spray program, We had several years of a real Cinderella story. They’re still riding some of that in the northeast part of the state.”

So far this season, peanut ground in south Mississippi have been “terribly dry up until last week (last week in May), which was the first time we’ve had any appreciable rainfall in our area in two months or better,” Steede said. “The rain got a lot of cotton and peanuts up in our area. But we are still off to a really dry start.”

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, 91 percent of Mississippi’s peanut crop had been planted by May 31, compared to a five-year average of 76 percent and last year’s 55 percent. Nationwide, 70 percent of the peanut crop has been planted in 8 major-producing states.

Malcolm Broome, executive director of the Mississippi Peanut Growers Association, said producers in the northeast part of the state “finally got in the field, so from what I’ve heard, they finally got going up there.”

The peanut-producing area in west Mississippi around Port Gibson was not affected by flooding this spring and has been planted, “even though some of those same growers lost their corn, and haven’t been able to plant cotton,” Broome said.

Hot, dry weather continues to be a concern for peanut growers, according to Broome. “Planted peanuts are up 2 to 3 inches high. But they’re all going to be needing water by the end of the first week in June, especially with all these hot temperatures.”

Broome says several peanut producers in the Lucedale, Miss., area, are dealing with packed ground and little or no moisture. “There are roughly 3,000 acres to 4,000 acres in that area that might not be planted. They need to be planted in the next week or so.”

About 30 percent of Mississippi peanut ground is irrigated, mostly by center pivots.

Broome said that seed quality issues in the 2010 peanut crop produced some concern that certain peanut varieties might not be in good supply for 2011, but growers had few problems acquiring seed this spring.

In 2010, Mississippi produced one of the best crops in the Southeast, according to Broome. “We caught the rains just right. There were some fields that went past 5,000 pounds.”

This spring, the MPGA joined with the U.S. peanut industry to show support for the tornado ravaged areas of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. The industry sent peanut butter, peanuts, and water to assist families in Smithville, Wren, East Webster, and Leakesville in Mississippi, plus five counties in Alabama, and the cities of Ringgold and Griffin, in Georgia. The MPGA contributed $5,500 toward the relief effort, Project Giving Back which is coordinated by Peanut Proud, Inc., a U. S. peanut, authorized 501c3 organization dedicated to humanitarian efforts. To date the total value of cash donations, peanut butter, supplies, and trucking has reached over $132,000.

“The peanut growers in Mississippi are more than willing to participate in this effort and peanut butter is an ideal food for areas that have no electricity since it doesn’t need refrigeration, or cooking, and most of all is loaded with nutrition,” said Joe Morgan, president of MPGA. “Several of our Mississippi growers were directly affected by these storms and many others have volunteered many hours of assistance in the cleanup efforts.”

Delivery of peanut products and supplies began on May 5 and continued on a weekly schedule in May. On May 12, 1,200 backpacks with school supplies and nutritional peanut snacks were delivered to students in Smithville and Wren, Miss., and Hackleburg, Ala., and 600, 20-ounce jars of peanut butter to East Webster County School. On May 9, 20 cases of peanut butter were delivered to Leakesville, a community in southeast Mississippi that was also severely damaged by tornados.

Donations can still be made to the Peanut Proud project. Send your tax deductible contribution to: Peanut Proud Inc., P.O. Box 446, Blakely, Ga., 39823. Make checks payable to: Peanut Proud noting Project Giving Back.