Even with variable weather conditions throughout the U.S. Peanut Belt, growers still continued to establish a new yield plateau, with an overall average just shy of 4,000 pounds per acre. This past year’s Farm Press Peanut Profitability met challenges unique to their specific regions and delivered crops worthy of their recognition as premier producers.
“Our peanut crop in 2014 turned out really well, with good grades and good quality,” says Billy Bain, the longtime Dinwiddie, Va., grower who was the upper Southeast Peanut Profitability Award winner in 2014. “One of our biggest concerns is the first frost, and we never know when we’ll see it. But yields should be about 4,500 pounds or better.”
(Editor’s Note: Each summer, Farm Press, along with its co-sponsors, presents the Peanut Profitability Awards to deserving growers from each peanut-producing region who have simultaneously achieved top yields and cost efficiency over their entire operations. Since these awards are based on the previous year’s production, we thought it would be interesting to see how our 2014 honorees fared during the most recent growing season.)
Bain admits the results from this past year were better than anticipated, especially considering that he plant several varieties. “A lot of growers in this region are planting all Bailey variety. We’re trying to grow some of the other varieties that may not be as high yielding as Bailey, but they give us excellent grades. Super extra large is what we’re looking for,” he says.
Thirty of Bain’s 180 peanut acres were irrigated this past year, but he didn’t have to turn on yet. “We didn’t get an excessive amount of rainfall, but we seemed to have gotten it at the exact right time.
Looking ahead to the spring 2015 crop, Bain says he doesn’t plan to increase his acres, and his cultural practices will stay pretty much the same unless he discovers something in winter production meetings that’ll benefit his operation.
Bain farms about 3,500 total acres. In addition to peanuts, he grows cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat and raises beef cattle. He follows peanuts with wheat to add tilth back to the soil. After wheat is harvested in the spring, he plants double-crop soybeans, making full use of some of his best farmland. Soybeans are followed by one or two years of corn or cotton, prior to putting land back into peanuts.
“We haven’t heard yet about a peanut contract, but the growers who got back into growing peanuts had some good virgin land that hadn’t been in peanuts in 10 to 12 years, so I’m hearing about some 3-ton-per-acre yields. With those kinds of yields, they can make money at a lower contract price,” says Bain.
Southwest winners set new record
The Guenther brothers, Isaac, John and George, Gaines County, Texas, produced a better peanut crop in 2014 than they did in their Profitability Award winning 2013 crop.
“We beat last year’s record,” John says, “and averaged more than 8,000 pounds per acre.”
He says timely rainfall was a factor but new ground was also a key. “We put in a new pivot next to the best field from last year, so we knew we had good soil and ample water. Fresh ground and good weather made the difference.”
They produce all Virginia-type peanuts and john says the grades were “real good.”
They made another good cotton crop as well, averaging 4.75 bales per acre on their best field and four bales on all irrigated acreage. ‘It’s West Texas, so most of the dryland acres just got shredded,” he says. “Dryland we harvested made about a half-bale per acre.
He says price of cotton may convince them to plant a few more peanuts in 2015. “A lot will depend on market price at planting.”
Their main concern now is that their buyer is in Chapter 11 so they are uncertain about when they will get paid for this bumper crop. ‘We’ve done all we can do,” john says. ‘The things that concern us now are the things that we can’t control. “We had a good crop year, but the market situation is out of our hands.”
Dry summer in lower Southeast
This past year wasn’t as good as the previous year, laments Alabama grower Owen Yoder, who was the lower Southeast Peanut Profitability Award winner in 2014.
“We had a fairly dry summer here and finally got a few showers later into August. It stayed dry here, especially in July. Peanuts hung on and did all they could, but they definitely weren’t as good as in the two prior years. Overall, however, peanuts continued to be our best crop compared with cotton and soybeans,” he says.
Yoder planted about 160 acres of peanuts this past year, all without the benefit of irrigation. “I’m still considering pursuing irrigation at some point in the future. But we don’t know how feasible irrigation would be, considering how some of our land lays,” he says.
In addition to dry weather, Bain also had problems with lesser cornstalk borers in peanuts. “We had to contend with it, and it affected our grades to some degree. There were spots that did not grade as well as we had hoped, and I attribute that to dry weather and the lesser cornstalk borer. A few of my peanuts went Seg. 2. My peanut crop was spread out over a broader area this year than in the past, when my acreage has been more concentrated,” says Yoder, who grows all Georgia-06G variety.
As for 2015, he doesn’t anticipate any drastic changes in his farming operation. Yoder farms in Alabama’s Dallas County, in the west-central portion of the state. In addition to cotton and peanuts, he also grows wheat, soybeans, corn, and grain sorghum. On his heavier or Black Belt soils, he has a three-year rotation of cotton, soybeans, corn, or grain sorghum. On sandy loam soils, he grows cotton, wheat, soybeans and peanuts.
“I’m in a good rotation, and I don’t see making a major change in it for this coming year. I’ll be following peanuts behind cotton next year, as in the past. I hope the market will pick up some, but I don’t think it will. With the Farm Bill, there may be more incentive to plant peanuts this year, and that’ll probably result in a larger crop.”