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Challenging year for peanut production

Jimbo Grissom harvests his 34th consecutive peanut crop this fall. His father brings in his 63rd straight.

Next year, they’ll grow another one.

“We’ve been in peanuts all my life,” said Grissom, who farms on his own, but in close cooperation with his father, brother and son in Gaines County, Texas. “Our acreage this year is not down from 2007 or 2008. Producing peanuts is what we do so cutting back is not an option.

“We have a warehouse, combines and all we need to grow peanuts. We don’t want to park a half million dollars of combines or fail to fill the warehouse.”

It’s been a challenging year, he said. “Inputs are down from 2008, but last year we were looking at $500 a ton peanuts. This year, we’re still not sure what we’ll get. We’ve seen some $400 contracts and some farmers have signed them, but that’s just guaranteeing a loss. I’m not certain where we are with the market.”

He guessed that about 25 percent of the peanuts in his area have been contracted with 75 percent still not priced. “I’m also wondering what will be available for 2010. If contracts are not favorable acreage may go down. We have a lot of uncertainty in the peanut industry. I’ve heard some talk about farmers cutting back on peanuts and putting in cotton. Roundup price is lower so they can use Roundup Ready Flex cotton and keep it clean with little tied up in it.”

He said crop insurance is not particularly good for cotton or peanuts, but is slightly better for cotton.

“Some younger farmers may not survive 2009,” Grissom said. “They don’t have the equity. The rest of us are burning up equity.”

He said some unusual production problems also made 2009 a tough year to grow peanuts. “We had some soil borne disease problems we don’t usually see and we’re not sure why. We’ve had a study on the farm all summer.”

He said Sclerotinia blight and Pythium pod rot have been active this year. “This is the first time I’ve seen Pythium in the field.”

Treatments were costly, $60 to $70 per acre for Ridomil Gold. “One application took care of it, though.”

Leaf spot, usually a late season problem, was not an issue this year, however. “We usually see it in early fall, but this year was hot and dry.”

Grissom will try to make changes next year to reduce production costs. “I’ll do more no-till peanuts to cut input costs,” he said. “That’s about the only place left to cut without sacrificing yield. I did some no-till in 2009 and was pretty tickled with it. We can tie up $75 to $100 per acre in land preparation quickly.”

He plans to plant into wheat stubble harvested last spring. “I kept it clean all summer.”

In addition to reducing costs, Grissom said no-till will reduce potential damage and soil loss from blowing sand. “It’s been intense the last two years. Some farmers have had peanuts blown out and that’s uncommon.”

He’s thought about planting a winter cover crop and terminating it before planting peanuts. “But we put more money in it to break land, use a land plane, list and sow grain. We have about $60 per acre invested just to get it planted. Then we have to use electricity to run the irrigation system to water it and get the wheat up. Then we terminate it.

“If we use wheat stubble, we don’t have those expenses. I’m excited about no-till peanuts and will have some research plots on the farm next year.”

Hail damaged some fields this year. “We had hail stacked up around the plants and it froze the leaves,” he said. Planting in stubble has shown some advantages over clean planting in limiting damage from hail storms.

For now, Grissom plans to stay with his usual variety, Florunner 459. “My son Jeremy planted some OL07 this year and never needed a fungicide. It’s a fairly new variety. I’ll wait and see what yields and grades are to decide if I want to plant some next year.”

He expects the 2009 crop to be a fairly good one. In mid-October they were nearly through digging peanuts and had a few days left before they started combining.

“We’ve dug about 750 acres and are digging about 250 acres a day. The crop looks to be about average or a little better.”

He said one field looks to make at least 6,000 pounds per acre.

Grissom uses a sandwich digger that turns peanuts so they are “sandwiched” between two layers of foliage. He said the layers keep the peanuts from getting too hot as they dry in the sun and also protects them from cold or rain.

He said the entire peanut industry needs to work together to keep peanuts a viable crop across the belt. He reiterates that the Grissom family is committed to the crop. “We know West Texas peanuts can compete,” he said.


TAGS: Peanuts
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