Farm Progress

“Outstanding yields, probably the best crop on record in this part of the world, if I was guessing,” says Newhouse.

Shelley E. Huguley, Editor

November 18, 2017

6 Min Read
Brownfield, Texas, peanut farmer Mason Becker says it's been a "pretty decent peanut year."

While August rains and cooler temperatures dampened cotton maturity in parts of Texas, those same weather conditions gave the 2017 peanut crop the boost it needed to finish out the growing season.

“The rain that came in here (you know peanuts love moisture) was really beneficial to our yields and our grades. So we’ve had a really good peanut year,” says Shelly Nutt, executive director of Texas Peanut Producers Board, Lubbock, Texas. “That extra rainfall just saved our farmers money on irrigation, of course, which creates more profit.”

Near Clarendon, fourth generation grower Michael Newhouse credits that August spell and God for what he describes as a phenomenal, unbelievable crop. “Outstanding yields, probably the best crop on record in this part of the world, if I was guessing,” says Newhouse.  “There have been guys making some just crazy yields. I can’t even explain it. Say, last year we were making 4,800 pounds, this year we’re making 5,800 pounds. The rain and everything helped us finish out some later pegs and helped us hang onto everything.

“Of course, you have to give credit to the good Lord because that’s definitely where it all comes from. We like to think that we’re pretty good at what we do. But in all reality, it all comes back to him.”

Newhouse grows irrigated Georgia 09B runner peanuts for Golden Peanut & Tree Nuts. He says he tries to keep his crops on a three-year rotation, planting peanuts, cotton and wheat.  

“In the area, yields are up 500 to 1,000 pounds,” he says. “I really think that yields are that much better, especially on our lower water fields for sure—20 percent to 25 percent better.”

Near Brownfield, Texas, Terry County grower Mason Becker may not have received the August rainfall, but he says overall, it’s been a “pretty decent peanut year.”

“We had a pretty dry August. The early part of the season, we had decent moisture and had a good peg set, so everything except during August went pretty smoothly,” says Becker, who grows cotton, milo, wheat and black-eyed peas. “We’ve seen yields this year average 20 percent above average. We’ve been blessed with a good peanut harvest — we still have about 120 acres left to get out.”

The threat of an early freeze initiated early digging for Becker and his crew. “We try not to get too many acres out ahead of the combine, so we don’t get too dry. But the way everything shook out, we were worried about an early freeze so we ended up starting the diggers and running them 24-hours a day. We had a lot more out on the ground, ahead of the combine, than we normally do,” explains Becker. “So that was a little bit concerning from the standpoint of dry-down time and being able to get to them before they got too dry and caused thrashing problems. It ended up being OK. We had probably a few more LSKs (loose shell kernel) but it didn’t affect us too negatively.”

Becker describes LSKs as when the peanut pod is broken and the peanut comes out of the shell, which results in a heavy grade deduction. “So when we’re thrashing, we try to limit LSKs and foreign material to have a little bit better grade. Your pay weight is based heavily on sound mature kernels,” he explains. “Anyway, that’s one thing that’s really important when we’re combining, is limiting LSKs, limiting broken peanuts. And the reason that’s important, as far as keeping the digger and the combine fairly close together, is that the longer the peanuts field dry or lay in front of the combine, the drier they get, and the more susceptible they are to breaking.”

See Texas peanut crop looks promising.

Becker primarily grows Georgia-11J Virginia peanuts for Birdsong Peanuts. But this year, he also grew 60 acres of organic Spanish peanuts for All Star Peanut. “They yielded really well and they are contracted at three times the money as our conventional acres,” he says. “I would never have thought I would have been growing anything organic, but it’s hard not to look at it for the money when it pays three times the contracted value.”

Due to a lack of water in his area, Becker says he breaks each of his irrigated circles into 40-acre blocks, rotating every three years between cotton, peanuts and wheat.

South Texas                                                               

In South Texas, the saying is, “We are always in a drought, and once in a while we’ll get interrupted with a flood,” says Atascosa County peanut farmer Bill Slomchinski.  But this year his area didn’t get the flood, even with Hurricane Harvey nearby.

“The eye of the storm only came about 40 miles east of us, and in saying that, put us on the dry side,” says Slomchinski, who says growers in his area were trying to anticipate how they would water their peanut crop in light of the forecasted hurricane rains.  “We were actually pretty dry when that hurricane showed up and they were talking about we were going to get 20 inches of rain. It didn’t happen. We only got half-an-inch of rain. So, when it was all said and done, that left us really dry. So, we got back in there and were watering again. And finally in August, we had a period of some rain that helped us set the crop but threw it kind of late.”

In his 42nd year of farming, Slomchinski says he and his son grew Spanish and runner peanuts this year. “We haven’t planted a lot of Spanish. We tried some last year and tried some this year. I guess I had forgotten that they just don’t yield as high. So I don’t know if we’ll do those again,” he says. “As far as our runners, they’ve been about average.”

The runners he is currently harvesting are probably going to be his best crop, he says. They were planted on new land; if you can rotate, it really helps. This has been laid out for about six years. It kind of makes a difference when you turn them over. It still goes back to, there’s nothing like a rested field. It has been in native grass, pasture-type land that we rotate. Our cattle had been on it in prior years.”

Disease Pressure

While all three producers experienced normal disease pressure, Nutt says August’s rainy, cool spell did increase disease pressure some. “When we had those two weeks of cooler temperatures, and overcast and rainy days, that meant more disease than we’re used to,” says Nutt. “But the farmers were right on top of it. They were watching the weather and were in tune with what was going on environmentally. They were right on top of it in keeping the fungicides out.”

About the Author(s)

Shelley E. Huguley

Editor, Southwest Farm Press

Shelley Huguley has been involved in agriculture for the last 25 years. She began her career in agricultural communications at the Texas Forest Service West Texas Nursery in Lubbock, where she developed and produced the Windbreak Quarterly, a newspaper about windbreak trees and their benefit to wildlife, production agriculture and livestock operations. While with the Forest Service she also served as an information officer and team leader on fires during the 1998 fire season and later produced the Firebrands newsletter that was distributed quarterly throughout Texas to Volunteer Fire Departments. Her most personal involvement in agriculture also came in 1998, when she married the love of her life and cotton farmer Preston Huguley of Olton, Texas. As a farmwife, she knows first-hand the ups and downs of farming, the endless decisions made each season based on “if” it rains, “if” the drought continues, “if” the market holds. She is the bookkeeper for their family farming operation and cherishes moments on the farm such as taking harvest meals to the field or starting a sprinkler in the summer with the whole family lending a hand. Shelley has also freelanced for agricultural companies such as Olton CO-OP Gin, producing the newsletter Cotton Connections while also designing marketing materials to promote the gin. She has published articles in agricultural publications such as Southwest Farm Press while also volunteering her marketing and writing skills to non-profit organizations such as Refuge Services, an equine-assisted therapy group in Lubbock. She and her husband reside in Olton with their three children Breely, Brennon and HalleeKate.

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