Saturday, January 28, 2023

A Footprint Takes Shape

amanda huber
Amanda Huber,
Peanut Grower Editor

In 2022, the Sustainable U.S. Peanuts Initiative platform was ready for enrollment and collection of grower data from the prior season. Although findings have been released, some of which you can read about on page 20, one year of data is a starting point and not enough to make a baseline about the industry’s sustainability efforts. 

What those 69 volunteer farmers did was start the process and help refine the platform in which data is input. When a question was not fully understood, they would let Eric Coronel, American Peanut Council’s sustainability director know, and it would be revised, improving the product for future participants. Kudos to them for being a critical part of this effort. 

The sustainability initiative came about because consumers are demanding more information about the food they eat. Not just where it comes from, but how it is grown and what the impact is on the environment. Prior to creating their own platform, the APC joined Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, who developed the Fieldprint Platform, a pioneering assessment framework for brands, retailers, suppliers and farmers to measure the environmental impacts of 11 commodity crops. A National Indicators Report, published every five years, helps quantify the efficiency of U.S. farmers and highlights five critical environmental indicators.

According to the 2021 National Indicators Report:

Total yearly U.S. peanut production has increased 166% without a significant increase in peanut acreage.

In the early 1980s, a peanut farmer could expect to produce 2,500 pounds of peanuts per acre. Because of improved peanut varieties, research and education, among other advancements, peanut farmers can now grow over 4,000 pounds per acre on average.

The land area needed to produce one ton of peanuts has decreased by 46%, from an average of one acre during the early 1980s to 0.54 acre in 2020.

The water required to achieve an increase in yield compared to non-irrigated yield conditions has decreased by 43%.

Energy use and greenhouse gas emissions required to produce one pound of peanuts have decreased by 55% per pound of peanuts at the field level.

For soil erosion, there was no change when comparing 1980 to 2020. There was a spike in soil erosion in the early 2000s, but since then, soil erosion has been reduced by 31%.

With this information and that collected by the Sustainable U.S. Peanuts Initiative, the industry will have the documentation or “proof” necessary to promote U.S.-grown peanuts as a resource-efficient crop produced by dedicated farmers.

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