Murray Phillips doesn’t get bored — his diverse Frio County, Texas, farm offers plenty of activity year-round. He’s currently growing corn (sweet, white and yellow), cotton, wheat (irrigated and dryland) green beans, spinach, carrots and his favorite crop, peanuts.

“We’re peanut farmers,” he says. “They’re the most acreage I grow.” He’s planting about 2,000 acres this year and expects to average 5,000 pounds per acre if all goes well. “Sometimes we’ll make 6,000 pounds in some areas,” he says.

Consistent yields and attention to production detail earned Phillips the 2013 Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award for the Southwest region.

He farms near Pearsall, Texas, about 50 miles south of San Antonio. Growing conditions here are more like those in the lower Southeast than the more arid West Texas peanut production area.

“We have a lot more disease than they do in the Southern High Plains region,” he says. “We’re more like the Southeast, except we are drier.”

He plants mostly Florida-07 runner-type peanuts with a few Georgia-09s. “Florida-07 is the one I really like,” he says.

He selects varieties for yield and also to help manage disease. “We used to have trouble with tomato spotted wilt virus,” he says. Variety selection and planting in a later window have helped minimize injury from the disease. Most peanut farmers in the South Texas production area — Frio, Atascosa, Medina and LaSalle Counties — plant from mid-May through mid-June.

“We want to be finished planting by July 4,” Phillips says. “If we plant early, thrips come out of the wheat and we can be in big trouble.”

The tomato spotted wilt virus is vectored by thrips, so peanut plants available when those pests emerge from wheat are vulnerable to significant damage.

“In the early 1990s, folks planted in March and April,” he says, “but no one has planted that early in a long time. Sometimes we finish planting peanuts and start harvesting corn the next day.”

He tried twin-row peanuts several years back as an option to reduce spotted wilt damage, but says, “We don’t do that any longer.”

He still uses conventional tillage on all his cropland.