From surprisingly good yields to fields turned under, this year had it all.
By Amanda Huber
One of the most remembered skits from the old television variety show “Hee Haw” featured a little ditty with a line that went like this, “If it weren’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all.” That’s got to be the way many peanut producers feel about this crop year.
Texas producers were especially hit hard and that’s been going on since last year. For 2011, with high cotton prices and the continuing drought, the prospect of Texas planting near normal peanut acreage was unlikely.
Calvin Trostle, Texas Agriculture Extension agronomist, says many producers had already committed to cotton, which would require about one-half to two-thirds, at most, of the water that peanuts would require to produce a high-end lint yield when peanut prices made a late surge to secure acreage.
“The absence of soil profile moisture favored cotton in the Texas High Plains region,” he says. “Peanut acreage in leading counties like Gaines, Yoakum and Terry was decreased by about 60 percent from recent years.”
No Pegs, No Pods, No Peanuts
For those who did plant peanuts, Trostle says early season issues began with drought, heat and excessive wind that made the establishment of any crop difficult, even with the aid of irrigation.
“Producers in early July in some areas received permission from crop insurance providers to divert water off of irrigated cotton in an attempt to salvage and prolong the prospects for peanuts,” he says. “In hindsight, producers whose irrigation capacity was normally quite adequate probably failed to consider terminating irrigation on even some of the peanut crop in order to water the remaining peanuts more heavily.”
Trostle says peg and pod counts on typical fields in Gaines County near the end of July noted a minimal number of pegs in the ground and a yield potential of less than 2,000 pounds per acre, if the remaining portion of the growing season was “normal.”
“Historically for the Texas High Plains, peanut pegs need to be in the ground by about Aug. 15, to have a high probability of making a mature pod. But this did not occur.
“Although many fields were helped by more frequent irrigation to set later pegs, it does not appear that we have recaptured nearly as much of the original yield potential that we hoped on most fields,” Trostle says. “It is unknown at this time how much of the irrigated peanut crop will not be harvested at all, but the acreage will be significant. Some fields were cleared by crop insurance and they hayed.”
Saving Here, Spending There
Texas’ neighboring state of Oklahoma fared better and is looking for good yields from the late-maturing crop.
“Despite the weather conditions, we are going to have some surprising yields,” says Chad Godsey, Oklahoma State University Extension agronomist. “We will most definitely have a lower average yield, but, given the year, it looks like it will turn out better then we first thought.”
Godsey reports minimal pest and disease problems as a result of the weather.
“Most producers greatly reduced the number of leaf spot applications but these dollar savings were put into extra irrigation costs,” he says.
Less Rain, Less Disease Pressure
David Wright, University of Florida Extension agronomist, says there are some good peanut yields in Florida despite the lack of rain. The lack of rain led to less disease pressure, which actually benefitted producers’ yield potential.
“It is surprising how good yields seem to be turning out to be being about 25 inches behind normal for rainfall for the year to this point,” he says.
Wright says weed and disease control was good, in general, and the new varieties seem to be holding up well against Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus.
“White mold showed up in several fields that have an every-other-year rotation,” he says. “Conditions were perfect with short rotations and high temperatures to set up white mold. These fields will need to be out of peanuts for at least two years or they will continue to have problems.”
The decrease in rotation interval is something Wright says is likely to happen next year.
“We had an increase in acreage of peanuts in Florida this year, and it looks like we may have an increase in yield over last year, too,” Wright says. “I expect that with the current prices we will see an increase in acreage again next year, which will hurt rotations.”
Rain When It’s Not Needed
Mark Frye, University of Georgia Extension agent for Wayne County, says the peanut crop in his county runs the gamut.
“Our peanut crop is from one end of the spectrum to the other depending on when and where the rain came,” he says. “While we had more rain than others, it was very spotted.
“Dryland and irrigated fields had more underground white mold pressure than I have ever seen, even with good fungicide spray programs.”
Frye says insects were not a problem, though a few producers sprayed fields for armyworms.
“Harvest efforts have been delayed because of the recent rainy, wet conditions, and I’m afraid that could hurt yields and grades if we don’t begin to catch up,” he says.
Time At Clinics Well Spent
One state due for a good crop year was Virginia, and it appears that is just what producers got in 2011.
“The crop in Virginia appears to be an excellent one,” says Maria Balota, associate professor at Virginia Tech. “Farmers are thrilled with good yields and grades, with sound mature kernels (SMK) in high 60s to low 70s.”
Balota says yields were very good, but only 25 percent of the acreage had been picked at the time, and good weather was needed to finish out harvest.
“We were challenged with rains from mid-September and until beginning of October,” she says. “During this time, farmers concerned about peanut maturity and optimum digging time used the rainy weather to participate in pod blasting clinics.
“When rain finally stopped in the first week of October, they knew in what order to dig the fields.”
Balota says how well producers manage to pick between rains will be the final determinant of yield. PG