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South Mississippi peanuts weather the storm

TAGS: Harvest
Brent Murphree DFP-1023-hensarlingpeanuts-brentmurphree-RBG.jpg
"I feel we came out pretty fortunate not to have any more than we did," Van Hensarling said regarding the bad weather.
Van Hensarling experiences a mild side of Hurricane Delta.

On Tuesday, Oct. 6, Van Hensarling was hustling to get as much of his peanuts and cotton out of the field before Hurricane Delta hit the Gulf Coast.

Hensarling, the Peanut Efficiency Award winner for 2020, lives in southern Mississippi, just outside of Hattiesburg, in Richton, which on that day was expected to take a good hit from the storm.

He farms with his wife, Anita, and sons, Jerid, 40, and Brad, 37.

When asked that day, what he expected out of the storm, he said, "Well, I guess we'll find out."

A week later Hensarling said he only had an inch of rain in his rain gage after the storm. He explained that the wind might have blown the rain across the gauge so it didn't go in.

"We didn't have a lot of wind," he said. "But I'm not sure we didn't have enough wind to mess up my rain gauge."

He said that he didn’t think that the wind got up much higher than 20 miles an hour. He was able to harvest all the dry peanuts that were in the field before the storm and the peanuts that had been dug just before the storm and still drying were in good shape.

"I feel we came out pretty fortunate not to have any more than we did," he said regarding the bad weather.

Storm totals

In Cameron Parish, Louisiana, the hurricane came on shore at 100 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service. Lake Charles, Louisiana, reported 16 inches of rain as the storm rolled onto the mainland. It moved into the northeast corner of the state and on into Mississippi where the storm eased up considerably.

Hensarling noted that he had spoken with growers west of him along the Mississippi River that had reported 4½ inches of rain and winds of up to 40 miles per hour.

"It's good for us," he said. "It's bad for somebody else."

In addition to his peanuts, he had about 150 acres of dryland cotton that he didn't get to before the storm struck, but that appears to have weathered the rain and wind. He is expecting his cotton to yield close to 2½ bales per acre.

Peanut yields

Hensarling rotates peanuts and cotton on his farm. Most of his acreage is dryland, but his peanut production is impressive. This year his peanuts are looking to produce over 6,000 pounds per acre on about 1,000 acres.

"From all the camps, they are above 6,000 pounds," he said of his fields spread throughout the area. "That usually figures out to be about 6,500 pounds an acre."

He said that he usually underestimates on peanut yields.

"I'm always on the low side," he said. "They are usually better than what I think they are, just rough figuring you know."

He was a bit concerned about the price of peanuts as the COVID-19 situation developed and the prices of other crops dropped.

"I got scared with everything going on that it might affect peanut prices like it did some other commodities," he said. "But they actually claim that it's been good for things. They can't keep peanut butter on the shelf."

And, he said that some contracts were paying $425 per ton.

"So, if you've got three-ton peanuts at $400 per ton, that's $1,200 an acre," he said.

Overhead costs

With overhead costs for machinery, labor, fuel, fertilizer and pest control ever increasing, a producer must have a way to cover those expenses. With lower prices for other commodities, it's with peanuts that Hensarling is able to stay in the market.

"Peanuts have always made us money on our farm," he said. "I wish I could grow 100% peanuts."

On the other hand, he said he needs cotton for the rotation and admits that without that rotation the peanuts would not perform as well.

"I could get rid of a cotton picker and a sprayer, and work half as hard," he said, "But you need to have a rotation, and cotton is it."

Having weathered the mild side of Hurricane Delta, Hensarling says, "I know we've dodged a bullet one more time. I think every one of those hurricanes, they had them coming right up our front door and we haven't got one yet. Knock on wood."

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