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Water is most critical factor for West Texas peanuts

<p>Rickey Berden, Plains, Texas</p>

Water is the most critical aspect of growing peanuts in Yoakum County, Texas.

“The most important thing we have to remember is to not plant more than we have water to make,” says Southwest Region Peanut Efficiency Award winner Rickey Bearden. “We have to be careful not to put more inputs into a crop than we can get back.”

He’s also committed to supplying the resources the crop needs to attain yield goals. “We often live in a no-man’s land,” he explains. “We have to make crucial decisions before we have all the facts.”

It’s a hard choice sometimes to decide to make a crop “as cheaply as possible,” or to expect to make good yields. “Some years we get help from Mother Nature.” Some years he doesn’t.

Bearden’s fallback position is to strive for yield. He also pushes for the most efficient crop he can make.

Bearden’s peanut acreage is up this year. Folks who know him may peg him as a cotton farmer when they see him at West Texas farm meetings, or read about his testimony before congressional committees, or are aware of his leadership in Plains Cotton Growers, the National Cotton Council, and other cotton organizations.

“Last year was the first time since I’ve been farming that I didn’t plant the first row of cotton,” he says. “I haven’t planted cotton this year either. We’re 20 cents below the old target price — and that’s a killer for cotton.”

He’s increased peanut acreage from 650 acres to 1,000 acres, and has added grain, mostly milo, but also some corn. “I picked up a little more irrigated land, so that helps with peanut production,” he says. He’s aware that peanut supply/demand numbers suggest farmers should reduce acreage, but says the farm program favors peanuts.

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