If peanut farmers want to cut back on insecticide and fungicide costs, they might consider moving to West Texas. However, if they're interested in trimming irrigation and fertility costs, the Southeast provides a more hospitable environment.

Based on three years of data accumulated from the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award winners, the Southwest region (Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico) has been the least expensive place to grow peanuts, with production costs running about $102 per acre. The Lower Southeast (Georgia, Alabama and Florida) placed second with costs running nearly $182. Growers from the Upper Southeast (North and South Carolina and Virginia) spent around $210 per acre.

Southwest growers averaged spending $89 per acre for irrigation, compared to $7.67 for the Lower Southeast and only $2.28 per acre for the Upper Southeast region. Several winning farmers in the Upper Southeast produced nearly 3,000 pounds of peanuts per acre in dryland conditions.

Highest irrigation costs for the three years was $116, in the Southwest; lowest was zero, in the Upper Southeast.

Lower Southeast winners spent only $19.35 per acre on nutrients. The Upper Southeast averaged $50.74 and Southwest producers topped $119. The most expensive fertility program also came from the Southwest, $263 per acre. The least expensive came from the Lower Southeast and was only 10 cents per acre.

Herbicides cost Southwest winners only $13.40. Lower Southeast region herbicide costs averaged $32.26 per acre and Upper Southeast farmers spent $50.74. Lowest herbicide average cost was $2 per acre, a Southwest grower, and the highest, at $60 per acre, came from the Upper Southeast.

Both Southeast regions averaged about $32 per acre for insecticides; the Southwest got by for only $20 per acre. Oddly, both the highest insecticide costs, $60 per acre, and the lowest, zero, came from the Southwest.

Fungicide expenses

Southwestern growers spent the least amount on fungicide expenses, averaging $30.60 per acre. The Upper Southeast averaged $68.26 and the Lower Southeast winners spent more than $80 per acre for disease control. Lowest fungicide costs, zero, came from two Southwest winners. The highest average fungicide expense was almost $110, from the Lower Southeast.

The Lower Southeast averaged less for drying, just $12.33, compared to $33 for the Upper Southeast and $13.76 for the Southwest. Highest drying cost was $36 per acre, from the Upper Southeast; lowest was just $2.51 from the Southwest.

Yields varied significantly, ranging from a high of better than 6,600 pounds per acre from a Southwest winner to a low just under 3,000 pounds per acre on an upper Southeast dryland farm. Most irrigated fields across the board averaged better than two tons per acre. Three-year average for the nine growers is 4,045 pounds per acre.

The Farm Press Peanut Profitability Program, now in its fifth year, uses a detailed entry form to analyze farmers' costs and returns to determine overall cost per pound of peanuts produced. Consequently, high yield is never the only factor.

Previous winners, however, say they almost always give a peanut crop what it needs to make reasonable yields. And rotation proves the common denominator in all nine winners for whom data is currently available. Crop rotation frequency for the nine winners averaged 3.5 years between peanut crops.

Growers insist that proper rotation achieves several goals, including disease prevention, weed control, and improved soil quality. Those factors make significant contributions to both yield potential and expense management.

Performing essential tasks on time also plays a role in each winner's success. Growers say that spraying weeds, diseases or insects at appropriate times improves control and may reduce the amount of materials needed. Applying irrigation water before the crop begins to show stress also improves production potential, growers say.

For more information on the Peanut Profitability award, check the Web site link at either southwestfarmpress.com or southeastfarmpress.com.