What is in this article?:
- Joe Morgan: Peanut, cotton and corn rotation 'has been good for usâ€™
- Peanuts offered more profit potential
- Peanut marketing challenge
- Peanuts take a lot of tractor power
• "As far back to the 1980s, I had been wanting to grow peanuts," says Mississippi farmer Joe Morgan, "but they were still under the government quota system, and it was hard to buy or rent quota from established growers.
• “We were doing well with soybeans, making good yields, but couldn’t get enough land for it to be an economical crop. Peanuts offered more profit potential per acre."
• In 1990, M&M Farms was able to get 45 acres of quota and they've been growing the crop ever since — with 800 acres in 2012.
JOE MORGAN, right, and his son, Joe Jr., grow peanuts, cotton, and corn on their 2,350-acre farm in south Mississippi.
Peanuts offered more profit potential
“We were doing well with soybeans, making good yields, but couldn’t get enough land for it to be an economical crop. Peanuts offered more profit potential per acre.
“In 1990, I was able to get 45 acres of quota and we planted our first peanut crop. The land had previously been in soybeans, a legume crop that doesn’t rotate well with peanuts, and over 50 percent of that crop had white mold. But we still averaged 3,187 pounds, which was pretty good considering the disease losses.
“After that, anytime quota became available, we bought it. The next year, we had 379 acres. At one time, we were the largest quota holder in Mississippi. The quota system was finally scrapped in 2002. For the past three years, we’ve had 800 acres or more of peanuts, with yields above 5,000 pounds, topping out with 1,244 acres last year and a record yield. All our peanuts are planted on 38-inch twin rows. We mostly plant the GA06 variety, which performs well for us.”
“In 1994, we made a decision that if we were going to grow peanuts, we also needed to grow cotton because of its rotation benefit to peanuts. We knew absolutely nothing about growing cotton, and the nearest gin was 130 miles away at Loxley, Ala. I remembered my father growing it when I was a boy, and the plants would get so tall and bushy I would sit under them for shade in the summer.
“We planted 526 acres that year — and had a traumatic introduction to cotton growing. We had an absolutely beautiful crop, the kind you’d see on magazine covers. About halfway into harvest, it rained for 11 days straight. We couldn’t get modules out of the fields; cotton seed was sprouting in the modules. But we were fortunate: we still averaged 1,058 pounds.
“In 1995, we decided to plant just cotton and peanuts and sold all our grain equipment. Since 2003, we’ve averaged about 1,000 pounds of cotton per acre.
“We either gin at Gaddis and McLaurin Gin at Bolton, Miss., 110 miles away, or Producers Gin at Theodore, Ala., 120 miles away. It’s a long way to go for ginning, and it takes a bite out of our profit, but we want to keep cotton in our mix for the rotational benefit to peanuts.
“We plant mostly Stoneville cotton varieties, but also some Deltapine. We work with Trey Bullock, our consultant, on variety selection.
“We planted only peanuts and cotton until 2007, but when cotton prices got so low we added corn back into the mix. With irrigation, we’ve had good yields, prices have been good, and corn is also an excellent rotation crop for our peanuts.
“We averaged 204 bushels on 597 acres in 2007. The next year, we had a lot of wind damage from a freak 50 mph windstorm and only averaged 151 bushels. Since then, yields have been quite good — in 2011 we averaged 229 bushels and in 2012 we got 226 bushels.
“It’s impressive, the yields we can get from corn these days with irrigation, improved genetics, and proper fertility. But it takes a lot of water, at least two inches per week. In 2011, with corn under our longest pivot, we had 800 hours on the pump engine at the end of the season; it ran almost continuously, week after week.
“We just won’t grow dryland corn any more. A couple of weeks without water at a critical growing stage can ruin a crop. We have nine center pivots that are fed from four wells — some only make partial circles because of the topography and obstacles — and we also have a hard hose system that we feed from a pond. Our longest center pivot is 1,936 feet and covers about 300 acres. We plant our corn on 38-inch twin row, the same as peanuts.”
Five 48-foot diameter storage bins, with 150,000 bushels of capacity and drying capability, allow more harvesting and marketing efficiency, Joe says. Their corn is marketed through the CHS cooperative at Collins, Miss.