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Dry Weather Affects Mississippi Peanut Harvest
By Bethany Waldrop Keiper
STARKVILLE -- With harvest in full swing, Mississippi's peanut crop is faring well despite this year's dry growing season. Although growers will not enjoy 1994's high peanut yields and quality, both disease and insect pressure have been light this year.
"This has been an off year for a lot of crops, but peanut yields are fairly good," said Dr. Alan Blaine, extension agronomist at Mississippi State University. "This is particularly true in the north Delta, considering how long it has been dry."
Many growers have had a difficult time digging the peanuts out of the dry soil, although recent rainfall has helped soften soils and reduce dust for a short time in some areas. Harvest is about 80 percent complete.
Gary Morrison, program specialist with the Consolidated Farm Service Agency in Jackson, said 1995 prices for peanuts are the same as last year.
"Since peanuts are a quota crop, the government guarantees growers they will receive a support price of about $678 per ton for this year," Morrison said.
Peanuts produced over the farmer's quota will bring much less, at $132 per ton.
In Coahoma County, the largest peanut-producing county in Mississippi, total yields are expected to be about 3,500 tons.
"We are hopeful for yields to be a little over 1 ton per acre -- that's down several hundred pounds per acre from last year," said Ann Ruscoe, area extension horticulture agent in Coahoma County. "Grades are high to very high, but they're not as good as last year."
Ruscoe said even irrigated peanuts suffered from heat stress this year.
Further south, peanut sizes and yields are lower than normal.
"Due to the dry weather, yields will be down this year, but ,we're not sure just how much," said Lee Taylor, Forrest County agent. "The peanuts were easier to dig than we expected."
The dry weather did have some benefit for Mississippi's peanut growers.
"One bright spot in this growing season is less disease pressure than I've seen in a long time," Blaine said. "Typically you will see fewer foliar diseases during dry weather."
Blaine added that growers' good management practices also contributed to low disease pressure for 1995.
"Peanut growers recognize the importance of crop rotation as a management tool," Blaine said. "Rotating crops from season to season lowers the incidence of diseases and pays off in the long run through increased yields."