The first planting intentions report of 2005 reveals a striking commonality among the lower Southeastern states of Alabama, Georgia and Florida — growers in all three states plan on increasing their peanut acreage over last year's levels.

The three states expect to see a record number of new peanut growers in non-traditional areas this year, with many producers seeing peanuts as a remedy to their increasing cotton nematode populations.

Georgia farmers are planning a decrease in their cotton, corn, soybean and tobacco acres in 2005, according to the Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service.

Indications are that wheat, oats and sorghum will show a slight increase from last year. Farmers intend to increase peanut acreage by 21 percent from the 2004 level, and cotton acreage is expected to decrease by 7 percent from last year.

Overall, temperatures for the winter months in Georgia have been near normal. Rainfall has also been near normal.

Georgia's cotton acreage in 2005 is expected to be 1,200,000 acres, or 90,000 acres below the 2004 level. Higher prices for fertilizer, more peanut acreage, and low cotton prices are some of the reasons for a reduction in acreage.

Peanut producers in Georgia plan to increase their plantings significantly, by about 21 percent in 2005. If these early projections prove accurate, peanut acreage will total 750,000 acres, 130,000 acres above last year. If realized, this would be the highest acreage since 1991. Growers have been preparing the land for their crop as weather permits.

Corn planting for 2005 is expected to total 270,000 acres, according to growers' plans in early March.

This would be a reduction of 24 percent from last year. If these acres are realized, this would be the second lowest acres of corn on record. Georgia's soybean acreage for 2005 is expected to decrease to 220,000 acres, which is 60,000 acres or 21 percent below 2004. The potential for disease problems and better alternative crops are some reasons for a reduction in acres. Planting will start around the first part of May.

Tobacco growers are planning a decrease in acreage from last year. Acreage for 2005 is expected to total 19,000 acres, compared with 23,000 acres in 2004. Transplanting is just getting underway in March.

Sorghum planting for 2005 is expected to total 55,000 acres, or 10,000 acres more than in 2004. Growers continue to look for drought tolerant crops.

Wheat seeding for 2005 totaled 350,000 acres, up 20,000 acres from 2004. Planting conditions were good in the fall and early winter months. Growers planted more wheat after the end of November than earlier anticipated.

Oats planted totaled 100,000 acres for 2005, up 11 percent from the 90,000 acres planted in 2004. Hay acreage expected to be harvested for 2005 is forecast at 600,000 acres, or the same as last year.

Florida farmers intend to plant fewer acres of corn, cotton, soybeans, and tobacco this year than were planted last year. Acreage of hay, wheat, and peanuts are expected to be higher.

Survey results show farmers intend to plant 65,000 of corn (compared to 70,000 in 2004), 85,000 acres of cotton (compared to 89,000 in 2004), 11,000 acres of soybeans (compared to 19,000 in 2004), and 2,800 acres of tobacco (compared to 4,000 in 2004).

Farmers in Florida also intend to plant 20,000 acres of winter wheat (compared to 18,000 last year) and 155,000 acres of peanuts (compared to 145,000 last year). Farmers expect to harvest 265,000 acres of hay (compared to 260,000 last year).

Alabama farmers plan to increase cotton and peanut acreage while decreasing corn and soybean acres, according to that state's agricultural statistics service.

Grower survey results show that farmers intend to plant 560,000 acres of cotton (compared to 550,000 in 2004), 215,000 acres of corn (compared to 220,000 acres in 2004), 160,000 acres of soybeans (compared to 210,000 in 2004), and 215,000 acres of peanuts (compared to 200,000 in 2004.

e-mail: phollis@primediabusiness.com