An application of peanut fungicide costs $15 to $20 per acre, so growers are relieved when they catch a year like 2018 when disease pressure is low.
While statewide peanut acreage is down significantly from last year — about 25,000 acres compared with 42,000 in 2017 — the crop benefited from good growing conditions, with average yields of 2 tons per acre.
“Peanuts were a bumper crop last year, and it’s going to be same this time. Disease pressure was probably at the lowest we’ve had in a number of years,” said Malcom Broome, Mississippi Peanut Growers Association executive director. “I haven’t heard any complaints with white mold. Growers are using routine fungicide amounts to control leaf spot, and that’s it. We’ve had a low amount of inputs with plenty of moisture — sometimes too much.”
As of Oct. 21, 77 percent of the peanut crop has been dug, with 58 percent harvested, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Peanut production will be about 96 million pounds in Mississippi this year,” said Josh Maples, Mississippi State University Extension Service agricultural economist. “This is quite a bit lower than the 172 million produced during 2017 due to a lower number of acres planted.”
One reason peanut acreage has declined is the inclusion of cotton — a common rotational planting partner with peanuts — as a crop covered in subsidy programs in Title 1 of the 2014 U.S. farm bill. That provision took effect this year and allowed cotton growers to enroll in the Price Loss Coverage program, which protects them from fluctuations in the market.
Another reason for the acreage reduction is a smaller return on investment for growers this year.
“Peanut prices for all farmer stock peanuts are averaging around $440 per ton for a national average. This is $20 per ton below the average for the same time a year ago,” Maples said. “Prices have mostly hovered in the $400 to $460 price range over the past year. At least compared to soybean and corn prices, peanut prices have not faced the same declines during 2018.”
Charlie Stokes, Extension area agronomy agent, said that, as long as cotton prices remain strong, he expects growers in northeast Mississippi to plant that crop on land where peanuts grew before.
“Peanut buyers like it when cotton is at a good price because it keeps growers from planting too many peanuts and getting a bad price,” Stokes said. “We could still stay down a little on acreage unless peanuts get a price bump soon.”
Broome also expects acreage to remain at this year’s levels in the near future.
“We’ve got one more year to work out this surplus we have; then, hopefully, the market will be back in line,” he said. “I think 2020 could be a good year for the peanut market, and we’ll plant more acres to meet demand.”