I meet a lot of people each year at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show — some I’ve known for years, but many are new, and it’s always interesting to talk with them and find out a bit about their farming operations.
A couple of years ago, I met and chatted with Joe Morgan, who farms south of Hattiesburg, in the piney woods region of south Mississippi. When he told me he was a cotton grower, I somewhat laughingly queried: “Cotton? Among all those pine trees?” Sure, he said, he not only grew cotton, but also was a long-time peanut producer. “Come down and see,” he said.
Recently, I finally made it down for a visit with Joe, his wife Patricia, and son Joe Jr., who farms with him. (See the story at http://deltafarmpress.com/peanuts/joe-morgan-peanut-cotton-and-corn-rotation-has-been-good-us) Joe is one of many farmers I’ve met over the years who started farming when it was a somewhat hard-scrabble business, and by dint of hard work, perseverance, hanging on through tough times and expanding as opportunities arose, they managed to come through it all with large, very efficient operations.
One of the crops that is a part of the Morgans’ success story is peanuts, which they’ve been growing now for more than 20 years, starting with a small acreage in the era of government quotas. The other is cotton, with which they get high yields — plus a rotational benefit to their peanuts. In 2012 the Morgans entered the MPGA yield competition and were the state winner in the 800 acres and above category with 5,660 pounds per acre.
“Peanuts have been good for us,” Joe says. “They’re a hardy, forgiving crop. In 1998, a year of extreme drought, our peanut vines were so dry and desiccated you could hear the leaves crunching when we walked on them, but we still averaged 2,776 pounds on 1,080 acres.
“The lowest peanut yield we ever had was in 2002, when there was a wet fall. We started out harvesting over 4,000 pounds per acre, but with all the rain we ended up with just 2,696 pounds. There were 200 acres we weren’t even able to pick.”
Today, Joe says, “We have better, higher-yielding varieties with more disease resistance, chemistries are better, and we have enough experience with the crop that unless we have weather problems, we can make consistently high yields — more than 5,000 pounds per acre the last three years.”
With both peanuts and cotton in surplus going into 2013, he says they’re planning to plant 750 acres of corn, “which is more than we’ve had in a while. All of that will be under center pivots; there’s no way I’d grow dryland corn. We’ll have about 800 acres of peanuts — even when contract prices are on the low end, with our consistently high yields peanuts still offer a good profit potential.
“Cotton acres? Well, that’s still up in the air,” he says.