While it’s still early to make any hard and fast predictions on the 2013 U.S. peanut crop, it’s fairly certain there will be a significant decrease in planted acreage, even if increased export sales to China are realized.

“What we do know for certain is that we produced a lot of peanuts this past year,” says David Wright, University of Florida Extension agronomist.

“The Southeast produces almost 80 percent of U.S. peanuts with Georgia producing about 50 percent of the U.S. total. Generally, we had good weather conditions in 2012.

“All crops in the lower Southeast made really good yields this past year, including record-high peanut, cotton and corn yields.”

Wright presented a forecast of the 2013 U.S. peanut crop during the recent spring conference of the American Peanut Shellers Association, held in Albany, Ga.

Weather forecasters predict that drought conditions are likely to improve in Georgia, Florida, Alabama and into the Carolinas this year, suggesting a good growing season, says Wright.

The data shows that much of the U.S. is now about 1 degree higher in temperature, he adds.

“What does this mean? We do have warmer temperatures, and with these new large-seeded peanut varieties, we’ve been planting later. Generally, we would plant on about May 10 because of tomato spotted wilt virus.

“But by planting later, we weren’t getting the full impact of the new genetics.

“In the last few years, we’ve backed off that recommendation and we’re planting more in late April. That might be one of the reasons we’re seeing higher peanut yields.

“Not only do we have better varieties, but we’re planting in a season that is giving these new genetics — even in non-irrigated situations — a chance to come back and make a good crop of peanuts after going through a period of stress,” he says.

In the next few years as growers continue to plant early, Wright predicts yields will continue to be similar to those of 2012.

“In general, we saw a record year and a 3.37-million-ton crop produced in 2012,” he says. “That was about 600,000 tons more than the previous record of 2.7 million tons, and it was 1.5 million tons more than the 2011 short crop.”

To try and get an estimate on the 2013 U.S. peanut crop, Wright submitted questionnaires to Peanut Belt agronomists asking them for their thoughts and comments on the upcoming production year.