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Cultivator — October 10, 2014

Alabama Peanut Yields Vary Drastically

Lawrence County farmer Sam Spruell planted 800 acres of peanuts this year in three northwest Alabama counties. Spruell said his crop is slightly above average. However, reported yields in the Wiregrass and other parts of the state are lower than normal.

The 2014 crop season has been a mixed bag for the state’s peanut farmers. In northwest Alabama, where peanut pickers are a rare sight, Lawrence County farmer Sam Spruell is harvesting an above-average crop.

“Yields look good, and the nut size is larger than normal,” Spruell said. “The peanuts have been grading really good, too. We’re around 200-400 pounds per acre above our normal right now.”

Although peanut prices are lower than usual, Spruell remains optimistic.

“Yields trump price,” he said. “I have never failed to make money with a good crop, and the prices have never been high enough to make money when I have nothing to sell.”

At the southern end of the state, Baldwin County farmer Tim Mullek is on pace with five-year averages for the area.

“In August, we had spotty showers, if it even rained at all,” Mullek said. “That made most of our crops mature about two weeks earlier than normal. We started digging peanuts Sept. 18, and so far, it’s an average crop.”

In the Wiregrass, yields are more sporadic, ranging from very poor to average.

“Some areas of southeast Alabama didn’t receive rain for eight to 10 weeks. You just can’t make a crop in those conditions,” said Coffee County farmer Carl Sanders, president of the Alabama Peanut Producers Association. “Yields vary from field to field this year, and grades are not where they should be — all because of dry weather.”

Sanders said lower prices for peanuts mixed with the lower yields could create a financial hardship for Wiregrass farmers.

According to an Oct. 6 U.S. Department of Agriculture report, nearly 65 percent of the state’s peanut crop is rated fair, poor or very poor. Twenty-two percent of the crop has been harvested.

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