The final production numbers for the 2008 U.S. peanut crop came in as expected, reflecting the largest crop on record along with the highest average yield on record.

The report likely will encourage a continued downward trend in peanut prices and a scarcity of contracts leading up to planting time. It is also expected to have an impact on spring planting intentions, with growers across much of the Peanut Belt expected to cut back this year.

In Georgia, where more than half of U.S. peanuts are produced, some experts are expecting significant acreage declines in 2009. ā€œIā€™d guess peanuts will make a major shift backwards in 2009, possibly back to 2007 levels, which would be a reduction of 25 to 30 percent,ā€ says Nathan Smith, University of Georgia Extension economist.

Total U.S. peanut production for 2008 is estimated at 5.15 billion pounds, (2,573,950 tons) up 3 percent from earlier forecasts and 40 percent more than was produced in 2007. Planted area is estimated at 1.53 million acres, up 25 percent from 2007.

Higher prices received in 2007, coupled with attractive contract prices in 2008, were the main reasons for the increase in acreage. Area for harvest is estimated at 1.51 million acres, up 26 percent from 2007.

Peanut yields are estimated at a record-high 3,416 pounds per acre, up 74 pounds from the previous forecast and up 343 pounds from 2007. The 2008 average yield is 257 pounds above the previous record of 3,159 pounds per acre, set in 2003. Timely rainfall, crop rotation and minimal insect and disease pressure led to the record-high yields.

Production in the Southeastern states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina, is estimated at 3.76 billion pounds, (1,880,500 tons) up 3 percent from the previous forecast and up 46 percent from 2007. Planted area is estimated at 1.13 million acres, up 26 percent from 2007.

Harvested area for the Southeast is estimated at 1.11 million acres, up 27 percent from the previous crop year. Yields in the region are estimated at 3,397 pounds per acre, up 71 pounds from the previous forecast and 435 pounds higher than the 2007 average yield. Yields in all the Southeastern states are up from 2007, and record yields are expected in Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina.

Virginia-North Carolina production is estimated at 438 million pounds, (219,050 tons) up 4 percent from the previous forecast and up 40 percent from 2007. Planted area is estimated at 122,000 acres, up 7 percent from the previous crop year. Area for harvest, which is estimated at 121,000 acres, is up 9 percent from 2007. The average yield is estimated at 3,621 pounds per acre, up 140 pounds from the previous forecast and up 796 pounds from 2007. Yields in both states are record highs.

Southwest peanut production, including New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, is estimated at 949 million pounds, (474,400 tons) up 3 percent from the previous forecast and up 21 percent from 2007. Planted area is estimated at 284,000 acres, up 30 percent from the previous crop year. Acreage for harvest is estimated at 279,000, up 30 percent from 2007. The average yield for the region is estimated at 3,401 pounds per acre, up 56 pounds from the previous forecast but down 252 pounds from the previous year. Disease pressure and dry conditions in some areas of Texas led to lower yields in the state compared with 2007.

Final 2008 production for other crops also was reported. Corn production in the United States is forecast at 12.1 billion bushels, 7 percent below 2007. Average yield is expected to be 153.9 bushels per acre, up 3.2 bushels from last year. This would be the second highest yield on record, behind 2004, and production will be the second largest, behind last year.

Soybean production is forecast at 2.96 billion bushels, up 11 percent from last year. This would be the fourth largest production record. Yields are expected to average 39.6 bushels per acre, down 2.1 bushels from 2007.

Cotton production is forecast at 13 million 480-pound bales, down 32 percent from last year. Yield should average 810 pounds per harvested acre, down 33 pounds from the 2007 record yield.

e-mail: phollis@farmpress.com