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Peanuts crop looks good, not fazed by hurricane
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The wind and rain brought by Hurricane Ivan did not hurt the state's peanut crop, and producers in South Mississippi are expecting a 2-ton per acre harvest to match last year's yield.
Mike Howell, area agent for agronomic crops with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said harvest is just starting. Howell covers a 21-county area from headquarters in Covington County, and said the year appears to have been a good one for peanuts.
"Rain pushed planting to June, but everything went well after we got the peanuts in the ground. Early yields look really good," Howell said. "We had very few peanuts in the state until last year, so we're planting mostly on new ground and have had very few problems with disease."
In Mississippi, peanuts are grown almost exclusively in the southeastern part of the state. They typically are rotated with cotton. Ideal planting is between May 1 and May 15, with harvest beginning by the second week of September and sometimes running until the end of October.
This year, the soil had begun to dry when Hurricane Ivan brought rain, softening the ground and allowing for an easier harvest.
"When the soil gets so dry and hard, a lot of the nuts will break off in the ground instead of turning up," Howell said.
The majority of Mississippi's peanuts are sold in Alabama. One major buying point was damaged by the storm, and Howell said this delayed harvest a few days until the facility was again operating. Some yellowing in the plants was detected in Jackson County and south George County. This is attributed to salt water brought in by the hurricane.
Mike Steede, Extension George County director, estimated the state has about 12,000 acres of peanuts. He said the 2002 Farm Bill did away with peanut quotas, which supported the price of peanuts for a certain number of pounds per producer. In 2002, the last year of quotas, George County had 1,000 acres of peanuts. That number jumped to 4,000 acres in 2003 and grew to 6,000 acres this year.
"Removing the quota system had a negative effect on prices," Steede said. "Quota peanuts had been about 38 cents a pound, and now we're getting about 20 cents a pound."
However, peanuts are a profitable crop in South Mississippi, costing between $300 and $400 an acre to produce.
"You grow 1 ton to cover your cost and 1 ton for your profit," Steede said.