The record peanut yield in Virginia and the record-tying yield in North Carolina — which were the highest state yields in the country — should come as no surprise, say Extension personnel in those states.

“With the smaller acreages we have been growing compared to a few years ago, farmers have been able to develop longer rotations” said David Jordan, North Carolina Extension peanut specialist.

Also, there has been some attrition in the number of growers, he said. “The ones that are left are better managers. Put those two factors together — longer rotations and better management — and you set the stage for better yields.”

Still, Jordan was one of many observers who were pleasantly surprised by the 2009 North Carolina yield. “We averaged about 3,700 pounds per acre. That is a little higher than many of us expected.”

Acreage in North Carolina was 66,000 acres, down roughly a third, and in Virginia was 12,000 acres, down by half.

Despite the good yields, Jordan thinks peanut acreage is unlikely to rise in North Carolina in 2010.

“We would need very good prices to increase acreage,” he said. “It would take a higher price level than what we had last year.”

He expects North Carolina acreage won’t change much either way. “It might go lower depending on the demand from the shellers. But even then I wouldn’t expect it to drop by much.”

Virginia growers also produced 3,600 pounds per acre yield, which was also a record, on 12,000 acres.

“There were ample heat units and almost no moisture stress anywhere in the peanut-growing area all season,” said Pat Phipps, Virginia Extension plant pathologist. “Because of all the rainfall, we did have more disease than normal. CBR ranked No. 1, followed by sclerotinia. Nematodes didn’t cause much damage.”

A new variety called Bailey features high yield potential, high extra large kernel percentages, a distinctive bright hull and extremely good resistance to white mold and tomato spotted wilt virus.

What impressed Phipps about Bailey in field tests in 2009 was that it showed more resistance to CBR than Perry. “It could possibly be a major step in controlling CBR,” he said.

And a new fungicide could also help. “Bayer has registered Proline as an in-furrow treatment for CBR. In fields with rotations of four years or more, Proline might stand alone without Vapam. But it may not be enough if you are planting susceptible varieties such as Champs, Phillips, NC-V 11 or Gregory. “

There seems to be some promise. “At some point, we will need alternatives to soil fumigation,” said Phipps. “Proline could be a good candidate. I would like to see some growers try it in fields with a couple of rotation cycles of four year or longer.”

Phipps continues to think tVirginia growers should plant part of their crops to runner varieties.

“It’s a way to increase profitability,” he said. “In several areas of production, you can substantially reduce costs.

For instance, with runners, you can successfully strip-till peanuts, which is difficult with Virginias. The equipment is available because strip-tillage is widely used in cotton production here. “Strip-tillage ought to save our growers $30 an acre,” said Phipps.

You can save another $22.50 an acre on seed since runner seed are less expensive than Virginia seed.

And you can save still another $35 an acre on landplaster because the small runner seed don’t require as much calcium, especially in soils with medium or higher levels of calcium.

The differences in costs for growing runners can be as much as $90 less than Virginias, while yield and gross value can equal or sometimes be higher than Virginias.

There are some runner variety releases that mature right along with Virginias. Good choices would be AP-4, Georgia Green, Florida-07 and Georgia-03L.

“I don’t think runners will grade Seg 2 as often as some Virginias have, and these runners are not as susceptible to CBR.

Another advantage is that there is consistently a market for runners, which is not always the case for Virginias, he said. “Runners could give our farmers an opportunity to grow peanuts in years when they might not otherwise due to an over-supply of Virginias.“

e-mail: cebickers@aol.com