Texas peanut growers have favorable market and growing conditions, and with a little down-the-stretch cooperation from Mother Nature, 2021 could be a bumper year, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.
Dr. Emi Kimura, AgriLife Extension state peanut specialist, Vernon, said despite delays, fewer planted acres and slow progress, Texas peanut growers were expecting above-average yields.
Kimura said the season started with planting delays due to very wet conditions. For example, peanut-producing areas that received 1.9 inches of rainfall from April to September last year received 1.8 inches of rainfall in April alone this year.
Rains did not stop through July, Kimura said.
“We appreciate the rain, but it did not stop, and we were behind at least two weeks,” she said. “Acres in Central Texas missed their planting window because they could not access fields. They were waiting and waiting but had to give up and look for other options.”
Texas peanut crop behind schedule
Producers in Texas’ top peanut region – West Texas – were able to plant, as well as in South Texas and the Rolling Plains. But overall acreage was expected to be down slightly, Kimura said. Planted peanut acreage in Texas was estimated at 178,000 acres compared to around 190,000 in 2020.
Despite fewer acres and trouble getting the crop planted, Kimura said Texas peanut producers are hopeful due to excellent moisture and overall good growing conditions. Last year, widespread drought and a hard freeze in late October contributed to a below-average production season.
Rain, cooler temperatures and cloudy days have slowed the crop’s progress after delayed plantings. But the moisture has allowed plants to produce heavy pod sets, and recent weather has provided sun and heat plants need to mature.
Cautiously optimistic outlook
The outlook remains cautiously optimistic, however, Kimura said. Farmers must avoid problems like disease and iinsects, but most are proactive when it comes to pests that could reduce crop yield or quality.
Kimura believes proactive management for diseases has kept them in check so far and that the main pest problem this year has been weeds because of wet conditions and late canopy development.
But Mother Nature is beyond the producers’ control. An early frost poses the biggest threat to the 2021 harvest, which typically begins the first week in October, Kimura said.
The delays and slow progress through July could push harvest for many fields later into October than preferred, Kimura said. Last year, the first frost arrived in the Rolling Plains during the second week in October.
“We’ve talked to producers in West Texas and the Rolling Plains, and those are the two regions we worry about an early freeze,” she said. “We need a warmer September to push the plants along and help us catch up. That would help, but we also are hopeful the first frost is later than last year.”
Peanut prices good for producers
An early frost would translate into grade reductions, Kimura said. Grade reductions would be disappointing for producers who are looking at a bumper crop and good market prices.
Francisco Abello, AgriLife Extension economist, Vernon, said most Texas peanut acres are grown according to contracts agreed upon before planting. The contracts provide shellers an availability estimate. They also help producers lock in buyers and prices they can make management decisions around.
Abello said high demand, low U.S. stocks and acreage reductions in major peanut-producing areas, including Georgia, created strong contract prices for producers – $575 per ton on average, up $100 per ton compared to last year.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s five-year average peanut price is $417 per ton depending on variety, Abello said, while average prices for the last 10 years average close to $466 per ton. USDA pricings are still far from those prices in the past.
Strong domestic demand
“Domestic demand, consumption and increased exports led to a price jump,” he said. “With producers in other areas looking at other commodities like cotton and corn as a profitable rotation option, we don’t expect there to be any significant gains in peanut stocks, but we do expect demand to remain high.”
Abello said the average contract price bodes well for producers who have endured breakeven prices for years. Increased demand for peanut butter has been a major factor in declining stocks. And that demand is likely to remain steady.
“This is a much better position for Texas peanut growers,” he said. “If they locked in around the average price and fields deliver on yield and quality expectations, it could be a good season for them.”
Read the complete Texas Crop and Weather Report – Aug. 10, 2021, at Texas A&M AgriLife.
Texas A&M AgriLife contributed this article.