Florida Peanuts: Crop Starting Strong

Midseason peanut field. Photo: University of Florida

Florida peanut growers are just at the end of planting for the 2021 growing season. In general, this year’s planting has gone well, with few issues.

Peanuts can be grown successfully in a wide variety of soil types. They can grow on deep sands, if rainfall is adequate, and can be grown in heavy soils provided there is enough moisture for successful digging at the end of the season.

There are currently 13 states that grow some acreage of commercial peanuts, with Louisiana having the fewest acres reported (2400 acres) to Georgia which grows 800,000 acres or about half of the total U.S. production.  Florida and Alabama come in 3rd and 2nd place in most years along with Texas; each state generally produces from 170,000-180,000 acres.

This is a surprise for most people that think of Florida as a vegetable and citrus growing state. Peanuts grow well in Florida because they are better than most crops in sandy, droughty soils and require less direct fertilization and water than other crops like corn.

Peanuts take a lot of management and specialized equipment to grow and harvest. Specialized equipment is also needed for processing after harvest. About 55% of all peanuts are used for peanut butter, 20% for snacks, and 15% for candy.

The remainder of peanuts are primarily eaten as roasted ballpark peanuts or boiled peanuts in the deep south. Peanuts need a growing season of 125 to 160 days from planting to harvest, and are a good crop for rotation with other crops like cotton or corn.

This planting season started out well with most areas from Virginia to New Mexico having adequate moisture in late April, when planting typically begins for most of the peanut producing region.  As planting season progressed, conditions became quite varied throughout the region. Cold weather delayed planting in some areas, some areas experienced drought while wet conditions hampered planting in other areas.

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Virginia and the Carolinas were abnormally dry or in a moderate drought for much of May and into June, as well as the Eastern Panhandle of Florida which has been dry since late April. As you see from the map below, moisture is now adequate in Florida’s peanut producing region west of the Apalachicola River.

Even though Florida planted some peanuts under dry conditions and others in wet conditions, stands in general have been very good, for some farmers the best in recent years.

The main peanut variety grown in Florida is the Georgia 06G, although Florida has several good varieties like FloRun 331 and TUFRunner 297. The tri-state area of GA, FL and AL currently plant about 50-60% of peanuts in twin rows, and about 40-50% of the peanuts are planted using conservation tillage methods.

More farmers in Florida are looking at planting peanuts following winter grazing (usually oats/rye) to enhance root growth of peanut. Likewise, we have found 40-70% less irrigation is needed due to the deeper and larger roots following cattle grazing.

Strip till twin row peanuts 6-1-21

Peanuts shown here were planted in twin rows using strip tillage after cattle had grazed oats/rye. This picture was made on June 1, 2021. Credit: David Wright, UF/IFAS.

June is normally the time that growers start fungicide applications. Likewise, weed escapes may occur until peanuts cover the row middles providing help with late emerging weeds.  Florida has potential for an excellent crop in 2021.

The table below shows a best guess from state peanut specialists as to what to expect for peanut acreage for each state.

2021 planted peanut acres

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