Thanks to high prices, Mississippi producers have planted an estimated 50,000 acres of peanuts in the state this year, more than triple the acres planted in previous years and the most acres since 1943.

But it’s not just the price of peanuts that interested Tunica, Miss., cotton producer and former Mid-South High Cotton Award winner, Justin Cariker.

Cariker produces soybeans, cotton, rice, wheat, corn, and now peanuts, on about 5,000 acres just south of Tunica, Miss.

“The first thing that got me thinking about peanuts was the John Deere 7760 cotton picker,” Cariker said. “We got rid of our two conventional cotton pickers and the boll buggies and module builders and bought John Deere’s round-bale picker.”

Last year, Cariker put 2,700 acres on the John Deere 7760, a few more acres than he felt comfortable with. “We got by, but John Deere said the optimum acres with the round-bale picker is about 2,200 acres. So I needed an alternative crop that grossed out well for me. I already had one corn combine maxed out on 1,000 acres of corn, and soybeans don’t provide enough gross return. So I decided to plant 300 acres of peanuts.”

Cariker is one of a handful of producers around Tunica who are planting peanuts this year. All have contracted their peanuts at very good prices with Birdsong Peanuts, Aberdeen, Miss., which will provide transportation of the harvested peanuts and weekly scouting. Alan Blaine, an independent consultant and former Mississippi Extension soybean specialist, also helps with advice on production practices.

The crop did not require a lot of investment for Cariker, who purchased a new digger and peanut harvester for around $140,000.

Cariker began by making sure he had enough sandy ground to plant 300 acres in a three year rotation with cotton and corn. “The peanuts will grow on any type of soil,” Cariker said. “But I’m hearing you need to put them on sandier soil to dig them.”