What is in this article?:
- Consistent yields and attention to production detail earned Phillips the 2013 Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award for the Southwest region.
WORKING UP harvested carrot acreage for peanuts. Sometimes Murray Phillips, Frio County, Texas, will make a carrot crop between corn and peanut production.
Peanut harvest typically begins in October. It may coincide with cotton harvest, but he has someone else pick the cotton crop. “I only have about 150 acres of cotton, mostly on Blackland soils. It’s not my favorite crop. I used to plant more cotton, but corn just works better.” Still, he aims for a three-bale average.
“I harvest peanuts with a neighbor — he has four combines and I have three. We put them together and harvest all our peanuts.” He says cooperation allows both farms to harvest peanuts on a timely schedule.
“We may have fields that are ready at different times, so we work together to get them in as they mature. We like to be through peanut harvest by the first week in December. We can’t harvest too early in this area — the humidity is too high and vines are bigger, so we can’t run as fast. We sometimes finish by Thanksgiving.”
Phillips says having a diversified operation means “we never get bored. We usually have about a two-week break around Christmas, following peanut harvest. Then we start planting wheat in early January.”
He also harvests spinach from the end of December through mid-February. He plants carrots in late September and harvest begins in mid-February and runs through April. Green bean harvest was a few weeks off in late April. “Some area farmers were already starting to harvest green beans,” he says.
He’s had challenges the last few years — drought in 2011 and 2012 were hard on crops. “I think 2011 was worse,” he says. “We got some rain in late April in 2012, but it was still pretty dry.”
This year, he had part of his corn crop hailed out by an Easter Sunday storm and had to replant. He expects to fall a bit short of his typical 195-bushel per acre yield because of the replanting delay. In late April, some of his corn was a good foot taller than head-high, but replanted corn was closer to knee-length. And he needed more rain.
“We should make about 180 bushels,” he says, if the season goes well. He was preparing to harvest wheat in early May and expected some fields to yield up to 60 bushels per acre.
Phillips says peanut acreage remains pretty constant on his farm and for most other peanut farmers in the area. “We lost some acreage when the quota system was eliminated,” he says, “but a lot of that has come back.”
Frio, with 12,000 to 15,000 acres of peanuts, is the top peanut county in the area. The area’s sandy loam soil works well for peanut production, he says. “Some soils have a little more clay, but we have a good bit of sandy loam.”
Phillips, who has been farming on his own since 1996, says diversity has been an advantage to his operation. “There are a lot of diversified farms in the area, and I’ve tried quite a few crops, including onions, cabbage and others that I weeded out. Now, I think I’ve tried all I want to try — although something else might come along one of these days.”
In the meantime, he concentrates on peanuts — still his favorite crop — following a proven rotation, fertility, irrigation and disease management system to give him the best opportunity to make good yields.
He expects to maintain acreage at or near current levels, and continue to do what he loves. “I grew up farming and I’ve never wanted to do anything else,” he says. “This is it.”
Phillips and his wife Lisa have an eight-year old son, Braeden, who he expects will want to farm, too.