The Southeast Climate Consortium has released its peanut planting outlook for spring 2006, calling for an increased likelihood of warmer and drier-than-normal conditions in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.

The Southeast Climate Consortium, or SECC, is a coalition of six universities — Florida State University, University of Florida, University of Miami, University of Georgia, Auburn University and University of Alabama-Huntsville. The programs of the SECC are designed around broad themes of product assessment and evaluation, program evaluation, and economic analysis and highlight research done into the fields of climate, forestry, agricultural risk, Extension, and natural resources and the environment.

The latest climate forecast from the SECC indicates that the region will be dominated by the effects of the La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean in the next three to six months. La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperature as compared to El Niño, which is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures.

For detailed rainfall and temperature predictions for individual counties, you can use the climate risk tool developed by the SECC at the AgClimate Web site (www.agclimate.org).

The increased likelihood of a warmer and drier-than-normal spring may encourage growers to plant early, according to the forecast. However, growers must consider other factors such as soil temperature and the risk of tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) in any planting date decision. Studies show a dramatic increase in tomato spotted wilt virus for peanuts planted in early- to mid-April.

There also is a risk of increased TSWV on peanuts planted in mid- to late-April. Growers who decide to plant earlier are advised to consider planting varieties with good resistance to TSWV such as AP-3, C-99R or Georgia 02C. For more information, check the University of Georgia Peanut Disease Risk Index or the University of Florida EDIS publication SS-AGR-13 at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/AG247

A warm spring in the counties located in lower latitudes may allow for earlier plantings if soil temperatures and moisture conditions are conducive to uniform germination and emergence of seed.

It is recommended to plant after the 4-inch soil temperature has reached 65 degrees F. for three consecutive days or longer. The Florida Automated Weather Network and Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network monitor soil temperature data at several locations in Florida and Georgia, respectively.

Growers practicing conservation-tillage peanut production with cover crops and strip-till may consider killing cover crops earlier this year to avoid further depletion of soil moisture, according to the SECC forecast.

Meanwhile, a private weather forecasting company is predicting that this year’s hurricane season will be more active than normal but not as busy as last year’s, and that the northeast U.S. will be hit by a major hurricane within five years.

The experts at AccuWeather, based in State College, Pa., predict this year’s hurricane season won’t quite top last year’s record number and named storms and 14 hurricanes.

A normal season consists of 11 named storms, with five or six hurricanes, says Ken Reeves, senior meteorologist and director of the company’s forecast operations. The season runs from May 15 to Nov. 30.

The National Weather Service counted 27 named storms last year.

The AccuWeather meteorologists also stress that the northeast is overdue for a “powerful hurricane.” Weather cycles and above-normal ocean temperatures make it a question of when, not if, they say.

The meteorologists likened current weather cycles and ocean temperatures to those in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, particularly the pattern that led to a 1938 hurricane that stuck Providence, R.I., and killed 600 people. Wind gusted to 186 miles per hour, according to AccuWeather. Surges of 15 to 20 feet and waves of 25 to 50 feet left much of Providence 10 to 15 feet underwater.

AccuWeather says northeast hurricane damage could rival or surpass that caused by Katrina, which inundated New Orleans and was the costliest storm in U.S. history. The forecasting company plans to release a more detailed forecast, including landfall and strength predictions, in May.

AccuWeather serves clients worldwide with forecasts, data, graphics, consulting services and computer equipment.

e-mail: phollis@farmpress.com