PORTAGEVILLE, Mo. — Interest in a versatile legume — peanuts — has grown among Bootheel farmers since 2018, says University of Missouri Extension soils and cropping systems specialist Justin Calhoun.
Calhoun estimates there may be more than 15,000 acres of peanuts in the Bootheel region. Some of this new interest comes from the formation of the Missouri Peanut Growers Association, which has funded multiple projects this year to promote the state as a major peanut producer, according to an MU news release. Checkoff dollars fund three projects that Calhoun oversees at MU’s Fisher Delta Research Center in Portageville.
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In 2020, after the state maintained a three-year average peanut production of more than 10,000 tons, the USDA designated Missouri a primary peanut-growing state under the Peanut Promotion, Research and Information Order administered by the National Peanut Board.
In recent years, interest has grown in Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri. Most of Missouri’s peanuts end up in peanut butter jars.
Peanuts, tradtionally grown in the sandy soils of southern states, have a relatively long growing season, taking 140-150 days to mature. Harvesting is a two-step process. First, a farmer drives a machine, called a digger, that pulls up the peanut plant, flips it upside down and sets it back down on the row to dry for several days. Another machine, called a shaker or picker, separates the peanut pods from the rest of the plant.
Peanuts can be a profitable cash crop in diversified operations, Calhoun says. As much as 8,000 pounds of peanuts can grow in one acre, but most fields average around 5,000 pounds.