Jordan Peanut Grower Magazine Column Peanut Notes No. 16 2022
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As we move closer to planting we find ourselves in a place where commodities other than peanuts have relatively strong prices (cotton and soybeans, for example.) We are also coming off of a really good year for peanuts and that has affected peanut contracts (price per ton and quantity contracted) and subsequent demand for peanut acres. Peanuts are important but we need to consider other crops when prices favor a particular crop over peanuts. In our North Carolina peanut guide we show net returns for corn, cotton, grain sorghum, soybean, sweetpotato and tobacco compared with peanuts at various realistic yield potentials, prices and input costs. We are spending around $950/acre (fixed and variable cost) for a Virginia market type. How does that pencil out relative to other crops when the price of those is relatively high (with a much lower cost of production compared with peanuts?) When it comes to the biology of the rotation, cotton is a great rotation crop for peanuts. Another year of cotton in a field rather than peanuts will help peanuts the next time they are grown. Soybeans aren’t the end of the world in a rotation with peanuts. In North Carolina, in any given year we likely have 30% of our peanut land in soybeans. The key is sequence in the rotation. My suggestion is that the soybeans go right after the peanuts and then we need to get three or more years of cotton or corn in place before peanuts come around again. Our work shows that peanut yields can be hit hard if soybeans are planted immediately prior to peanuts (and in many cases even when planted several years before peanuts.) It certainly depends on the pest complex, primarily soil-borne pathogens and the specific nematode in question and their population. We also know that peanuts before soybeans do not have a major impact on soybean yields. Grain sorghum is a good alternative to corn but sometimes we struggle to control weeds in this crop and we want to avoid a buildup in weed populations going into peanuts if we can help it. Sweetpotato is a really good crop in rotation with peanuts, both from the perspective of the peanut crop and the sweetpotato crop. While we are on high value crops, tobacco isn’t as bad as peanuts or soybeans (before a peanut crop) but there are some issues. At the end of the day, the economics of crops drive rotation sequence more than the “biology” of the crop sequence. But sequence is important, and a less than ideal sequence will eventually catch up with you if the rotation sequence (from a solid agronomy and biology standpoint associated with pest complexes) isn’t considered. The “catch up with you” is potentially lower yield caused by pests or higher production costs needed to suppress pests and protect yield.