Owen Yoder had an idea last year that his peanut crop was shaping up to be a good one, but he didn’t realize how good until he began harvesting.
“I never anticipated growing such a good crop as we grew last year,” says Yoder, who farms in Alabama’s Dallas County, in the west-central portion of the state. “We were about halfway through combining when the folks at the buying point called and asked if we were about finished. I told him we still had a ways to go, and he told me we had a really good crop. We also had good grades, so it was just one of those years when everything works out well.”
His 2013 peanut crop was good enough to earn him the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award for the lower Southeast region. He attributes his success to God and says he is truly a blessed man.
Yoder is a dryland farmer, but he says that didn’t make much difference this past year. “Although I don’t irrigate, it was as if we had irrigation because the rainfall was so timely in our area. It seemed like we always received a shower at just the right time,” he says.
Yoder considers himself to be a relatively “new” peanut grower, having planted his first crop in 2011.
“I try to be diversified. My basis was cotton, and then I ventured off and started growing other crops,” says Yoder, who has been farming full-time since 2006. “I’ve been involved in farming practically all my life. I was born in Georgia and moved to Alabama when I was a young boy. My daddy grew peanuts, and I remember pulling weeds and hoeing as a young boy. I’ve always wanted to grow peanuts. It’s a different crop to grow, but I like new challenges and I enjoy it. I also run some cattle. This past year, I rolled up some peanut hay for the cattle, and I was really impressed with how well it did.”
In addition to cotton and peanuts, he also grows wheat, soybeans, corn, and grain sorghum.
“On my heavier or Black Belt soils, I have a three-year rotation of cotton, soybeans, corn, or grain sorghum. On the sandy loam soils, I grow cotton, wheat, soybeans, and, now, peanuts. I prefer to follow peanuts behind cotton.”
Yoder says he’s certain that planting on fresh ground is contributing to his excellent peanut yields. In 2013, he averaged 5,591 pounds per acre on 138 acres of peanuts. This year, his crop mix includes 150 acres of peanuts, 350 acres of cotton, and 200 acres of grain sorghum. He’ll also have between 200 and 250 acres of soybeans.
Irrigation certainly would help to remove some of the risks in farming, he says, and it’s an option he’ll probably consider at some point in the future.
Yoder considers his operation a small one, as he does most all of his own field work and depends on friends during the busiest times.
“I’d rather cut back on my acres and do things right than to spread myself out and take on more than I can handle.”
Paying attention to the small things
Yoder tries to get his peanut crop planted by about the fifth of May, but a wet and cool spring delayed him a bit this year.
“I started on time this year, but then a rain came in and slowed us down. I planted about half of them during the first week of May and the remainder about 10 days later. I found out that if you get a packing rain on a peanut, it’ll push on up through the ground. With cotton and other crops, it takes a little more effort. I’ve usually got a pretty good stand in seven or eight days, but this year it took about two weeks to get them out of the ground.”
He grows the Georgia-06G variety, in 38-inch rows.
“I chisel-plow in the spring,” says Yoder. “I like to get in as early as I can, field-cultivate, and get it smooth. I prefer to do it early enough so that I can get a couple of rains to pack it. I then plant on a stale seedbed. In doing that, we have a few weeds that come up before we plant, so I usually go in with Sequence and Valor directly behind the planter. It gives us a pretty good pre-emergence package.”
Yoder says it’s important to stay on top of any weed problems and to prevent any from going to seed.
“I try to pay attention to small things. I try to practice prevention when it comes to things such as weed and disease control. For example, weeds will come up on turn-rows and around utility poles, and if you take time to keep those weeds from going to seed, it will help you down the road. I took on some new ground this year, and it has been a challenge controlling the weeds.”
He uses a generic version of Section for grass control and Cadre for broadleaf weeds.
For peanut disease control, Yoder applies Tilt/Bravo followed by five split applications of chlorothalonil and tebuconazole.
Being diversified helps when it comes time to harvest, he says. “I try and plant my crops so that peanuts come off first and then we move into cotton. I like to do one planting so I can start digging and go all the way through. By the time we harvest the last peanuts, it’s time to move to cotton and from there to soybeans. Last year, grain sorghum was the last crop we harvested.”
As for keys to efficiency, Yoder says it’s important to constantly monitor what’s going on in the field. He also works to keep down his fixed costs by keeping equipment costs at a minimum.
“I run older equipment, and I maintain it myself. If an engine or transmission needs to be rebuilt, I build them from the ground up. I’ve bought tractors in pieces and put them together. During the off-season, I replace parts and make repairs, insuring that everything’s ready when it’s needed. I would love to drive a new piece of equipment, but it’s not that important to me. I’ll take an old tractor, fix it up, and paint it. With these old tractors, you can rebuild them and keep running them.”
Yoder has a daughter, Angela, who recently graduated from high school and is planning to attend Auburn University.