Southwest peanut acreage will increase in 2008, as much as 25 percent over last year in some areas, less in others.

Several factors will affect final acreage decisions, says Todd Baughman, Texas Extension peanut specialist at the Vernon, Texas, Research and Extension Center.

Robbie Blount, executive director, Western Peanut Growers, says planting intentions for the South Plains of Texas “appear to be up. A ballpark guesstimate would be somewhere around 25 percent higher than last year,” she says.

“Acreage will be up across the state,” Baughman says, “but not that much.”

Grain prices, condition of the wheat crop at planting time, and the cotton market will affect final acreage decisions. “Early contract offerings for peanuts in some areas were good,” he says, “and that spurred an increase in planting intentions. A good many growers signed up to grow peanuts. But until we know what the cotton market will do we'll be uncertain of peanut acreage.”

Rusty Andrews, Golden Peanut Company, Levelland, Texas, anticipates a 15 percent to 20 percent acreage increase in the Southwest for 2008.

“Prices look better,” Andrews says. “Contracts at $500 per ton for runner and Spanish-type peanuts have been available with some $550 per ton offers for Virginia types.”

He says the $50 differential may not be enough to convince typical runner producers to switch. “They usually want a little more than a $50 advantage.”

Runner type peanuts usually yield and grade higher than Virginia peanuts.

Andrews says growers would like to see another crop similar to 2007. “We had an excellent crop, good yields and good grades. But we need rain. We haven't had a good rain since September. We are dry.”

Oklahoma observers expect acreage to jump as much as 50 percent over the next two years.

Baughman says if cotton prices do not move up, acreage in much of the peanut area may go to grains. That's likely to be the case in the Rolling Plains, Baughman says. “If cotton prices go up, we'll see more cotton.”

He says growers and other cotton observers are concerned now that prices may move up this spring and then plummet near harvest. “Growers are apprehensive about cotton. China is always a big factor.”

He says the cotton market is similar to what the wheat market used to be. “Now grain prices are pulling wheat up.”

Baughman says peanut and cotton farmers face significantly higher production costs for the 2008 crop, but can ill afford to scrimp on inputs. “They can't cut a lot and still make the yield they need,” he says. “Soil testing will be critical. Growers have to know what they have in the soil before they can make fertility decisions.”

He recommends soil testing deeper to determine amount of residual nutrients. “Know how much nitrogen, phosphorus and, to a lesser degree, potassium, is in the soil. Know how much is needed.”

He says any farmer using minimum or no-till production should take care of problem weeds before spring. “Control marestail now,” he says. “From February to March will be the cheapest opportunity growers have to control this weed. They can use 2,4-D and get most of it before planting. Otherwise, they'll have to use other herbicides or cultivate to get weeds out of the crop.”

He says marestail is becoming a significant problem. “We even saw a lot in wheat last year.”