Despite high prices and early contract offers, peanut specialists around the peanut belt contend acres will still be down slightly in 2011.

In the Southeast, Georgia is expecting the biggest loss in acreage, with a 20 percent cut expected. Alabama and Florida are each looking at a 10 percent reduction.

In the Virginia-Carolina belt, both Virginia and South Carolina are looking at about the same acreage as 2010 and North Carolina is looking at a 5 percent cut.

In Mississippi, where acreage had been on the steady increase, a 20 percent cut in acreage is anticipated.

In the Southwest, Texas and New Mexico are looking for 10 percent reductions in acres and Oklahoma is expected to remain the same as 2010.

Across the entire belt, peanut specialists in each state estimate a reduction of about 14 percent from 2010, or a planted acreage total of about 1,111,000 acres.

Despite the reduction in acres, the peanut industry could get a needed boost from lowering carryover. If producers top 3,000 pounds per acre across the belt, they will produce a crop in 1.75 to 1.85 million ton range that would likely keep prices good for growers for the 2012 season.

Virginia-Carolina

In Virginia, Virginia Tech plant pathologist and long-time peanut researcher Pat Phipps says the state will likely remain around 18,000 acres in 2011. Drought dogged peanut production in 2010 and many growers just can’t find the incentive to plant more peanuts.

Government regulations on the use of Vapam, which is critical for Virginia growers who have a history of CBR on their farms, and the potential loss of Temik, are key factors that will limit production in 2011, Phipps says.

North Carolina State peanut specialist David Jordan says acreage in the Tar Heel state will likely continue to slide in 2011. He is expecting a minor reduction of five percent or so, but notes that could be higher, depending on how much cotton is planted is some of the key peanut producing counties.

Weed control, with the ever-increasing number of acres affected by herbicide tolerant pigweed, and managing diseases in peanut fields grown behind soybeans, are major issues that could further reduce acreage in North Carolina, Jordan says.

South Carolina

In South Carolina, peanut acreage is expected to remain around 65,000 acres, says veteran peanut specialist Jay Chapin. Again, cotton is a big factor as are grain crops which are competing for acreage in the state.

Chapin says timely rains at planting time may convince some growers to stay with peanuts or go to peanuts. Other issues, like weed management and the high cost of disease management will always be factors in how many acres of peanuts are planted, he adds.

Southeast

Georgia is the epicenter for peanut production in the U.S. and peanuts could take a major hit in 2011, says veteran University of Georgia peanut specialist John Beasley. He says $600 a ton contracts helped offset the loss in acreage, but still predicts it will be 20 percent — possibly more.

“There is no getting around the competition for acreage that cotton brings in Georgia. We will likely plant 1.75-1.85 million acres of cotton in 2011. Cotton at $1.20 a pound is equal to peanuts at $717 per ton. As long growers can make more money on cotton, they are likely to plant more cotton,” Beasley explains.

In Alabama, Auburn University research agronomist Kris Balcom says fuel costs, weed management costs, and the overall high cost of peanut crop inputs, will force growers to pay special attention to planting peanuts in 2011.

Overall, Balcom says he expects growers to plant 165,000-170,000 acres, or roughly 10 percent less than last year. The big increase in peanut acreage in recent years has come in areas historically planted to cotton. As is the case across the peanut belt, competing for acreage with cotton will be tough in 2011, he says.

University of Florida Extension specialist David Wright says Florida is likely to see a reduction in acreage by about 10 percent, bringing their total peanut acres down to 130,000 acres.

Wright says growers trying to get ahead of weed problems began cultivating in March and April and with continued dry conditions that is jeopardizing peanut planting. The continuing spread of herbicide-tolerant weeds is going to be a concern for Florida growers planting peanuts in 2011, he adds.

Southwest

Texas A&M Extension agronomist Todd Baughman says predicting peanut acreage is a bit dicey because of cotton and water. “We expect a 10 percent reduction in peanut acreage this year, but it could be higher,” Baughman says.

“Across most of our peanut producing areas, we are really dry going into the growing season. Low subsoil moisture tends to point to more cotton acreage. Combine that with the price of cotton, and peanut acreage could be down more than expected,” he adds.

Cost of water a big factor

The cost of water is another factor in peanuts. Again, historically on land where wells are marginal, that land is going to cotton, he adds.

In Oklahoma, OSU cropping systems specialist Chad Godsey says peanut plantings should stay in the 20,000 acre range, or much the same as last year. The big change is likely to be a continued increase in the acres planted to Spanish varieties. “I expect nearly half our acreage will be in Spanish cultivars this year,” he says.

Godsey says over the past few years some ‘old ground’ previously used for peanuts has come back into production. Bringing more old peanut land back into production could increase acreage, but cotton is the big competition for land in those areas and prices still favor it, he adds.

Mississippi

Peanut production is relatively new to Mississippi, and the state has gradually increased production to near 20,000 acres. However, Mississippi State University Extension district agronomist Mike Howell says that trend is likely to end with the 2011 crop.

Howell says a cut of 20 percent, pushing peanut acres down to 14,000 to 14,500, is expected this year.

A big concern for peanut production in the state has been to find varieties that are best suited to the area. Primarily varieties developed in Georgia and Florida have been used.

Georgia Greener looked promising, but seed issues are likely to influence growers to look to other varieties. In the southern end of the state, he says Florida 07 works well, but not in northern areas of the state.

As in most states, cotton is also an issue for peanut acreage in Mississippi. “While some may stick with peanuts at $550-$600 per ton, there is no incentive to increase acreage and as long as cotton prices remain high, it will be tough for peanuts to compete,” Howell says.

USDA estimates

USDA crop planting estimates came out at the end of March. Though these estimates agree there will be a decrease in acreage, there is a significant difference from state-to-state and on total decrease in acreage.

The USDA Crop Planting Intentions Report predicts a 4 percent drop in total planted acres, or 1.24 million planted acres across all peanut- states.

The biggest difference from the peanut specialists predictions come from the biggest peanut producing state, Georgia. The USDA report predicts a reduction of 4 percent. Georgia peanut Extension personnel are predicting a much larger cut due to a pricing advantage for cotton.

The USDA report also calls for a decrease of 10 percent in acres in North Carolina and Virginia, double what peanut specialist predict. As in Georgia, competition from cotton will be intense in these states, which could create a bigger reduction in acreage, depending on planting time weather for the two crops.

Regardless of which predictions are correct, there is likely to be some decrease in peanut acreage in 2011, but expect a comeback in 2012. The continued increase in demand for peanut products in the U.S. is going to keep grower prices strong, and the reduction in acreage in 2011 is likely to stabilize supply and keep prices high going into the 2012 season.

rroberson@farmpress.com