Heading into the main stretch for peanut production back in early August, growers in the Carolinas and Virginia looked to have a big crop — up slightly in acreage, and up slightly in yield from the 2009 crop. It didn’t happen that way!

As the sickly hot and dry months of summer shifted to fall, the euphoria was tempered by long hours of high night time temperatures and too little rain to make up the difference in many parts of the V-C peanut belt.

The end result will likely be a less than average year, yields down, not up, from 2009 and overall less than expected as hard-pressed growers had hoped for high yields to offset lower than expected prices for their peanuts.

Virginia-North Carolina production is forecast at 282 million pounds, down 8 percent from September and down 2 percent from 2009. Area for harvest is forecast at 106,000 acres, unchanged from September but up 36 percent from the previous year.

In North Carolina, average yield is forecast at 2,664 pounds per acre, down 234 pounds per acre from October projections and 1,036 pounds below last year.

Virginia, which has seen peanut acreage go up and down over the past few years, though mostly down in recent years, suffered the most from the heat and drought. Final yield results will likely put the 2010 crop somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds per acre lower than the 2009 crop.

Though most of the peanut crop was dug in September and October, Mother Nature took one last shot the first week in November, with temperatures falling to the mid 20’s in Southeast Virginia and throughout most of North and South Carolina. Freezing temperatures as far south as the Florida Panhandle put a final exclamation point on the crop that could have been.

Peanut producers in the eight major producing states harvested 6 percent of the nation's crop during the first week in November, leaving a valuable part of the late crop exposed to the freezing weather. In Georgia, while the entire peanut crop had been dug, portions of the crop remained to be combined and exposed to freezing temperatures.             

Heat and drought in 2010 may have done more than one year’s damage to peanut production in North Carolina and Virginia. After up and down years, both acreage and production-wise, some hoped acreage would stabilize with a good crop in 2010.