Virginia faces the possibility of a 41-percent decline in peanut production over last year, says the state's peanut specialist.

At planting time, Virginia's peanut acreage dropped dramatically from 74,000 to 57,000 acres — a 23 percent decline over 2001. As harvest nears, county agents are estimating average yields could be as low as 2,400 pounds per acre. If the estimate holds true, production in Virginia could hit 68,400 tons, a drop of 41 percent from last year's levels. Charles Swann, Virginia Tech Extension peanut agronomist, hopes the numbers he got back from a survey of county agents are on the low side. He's hoping for an average yield of 2,650 pounds per acre. That would mitigate the damage to a 35 percent decline over last year's production.

Blame the drop on a moderate to severe drought, plus severe tomato spotted wilt, virus and insect problems, Swann said at the annual meeting of the Peanut Growers Cooperative Marketing Association meeting in Williamston, N.C.

Swann and David Jordan, North Carolina State Extension peanut specialist, gave a run down of production in the V-C, Southeast and Southwest at the meeting.

Because of a wide range of maturity in the field, digging date will be a big key to success in the V-C, both Jordan and Swann say.

In the Southeast, yields in Georgia are estimated at 2,800 pounds; in Florida, 2,600 pounds; in Alabama, 2,300 pounds. All totaled, the Southeast is anticipating a 17 percent decline in production over last year.

In the Southwest, Texas acreage is up 7 percent to 8 percent while New Mexico and Oklahoma planted fewer peanuts, Jordan says. “Oklahoma and Texas yields will be up this year, according to peanut specialists there.”

In North Carolina, peanut producers planted some 25,000 fewer acres in 2002 than they did in 2001. Limited rainfall and TSWV severely hammered the crop.