Despite having only a 250-acre block of his 2,000 or so acres of peanuts under irrigation, drought related problems have convinced Mt. Olive, N.C., grower and 2011 Peanut Profitability Award winner for the Upper Southeast Region Vic Swinson to add more irrigation.

“When we get everything done and accounted for, I think we will be in the 4,000 to 4,500 pound per acre range for our 2011 crop,” he says.

“The crop looked beautiful, but in some fields we had way too many pops and the peanuts just didn’t weigh out as much as we expected,” he adds.

The veteran North Carolina farmer says his irrigated peanuts produced about 1,000 pounds per acre more than his dryland peanuts this last season. With the price of peanuts expected to be at or near an all-time high, doing everything to produce extra yield and quality will pay off, he says.

“Last year, we didn’t get enough rainfall to properly activate the gypsum we put in the soil to provide the added calcium Virginia-type peanuts need. I think that contributed to the high number of pops (peanuts with no kernel or extremely small kernels), and is another reason we are looking at ways to provide more water for our crops,” Swinson says.

Like so many North Carolina farmers, Swinson farms many small, irregular shaped fields that are poorly configured to provide optimum use of large acreage irrigation equipment. He also rents much of his peanut land, and investing in irrigation equipment on rented land can be tricky.

Despite the limitations, he says that irrigation is a big part of his 2012 planning, especially on land that he owns. “If I had the foresight to know what last year’s crop was going to be like and what prices were going to be like, the extra yield would have gone a long way toward paying off the cost of irrigation,” he notes.

In 2011, Swinson produced his second consecutive crop with little or no Temik. This past year he used Orthene mixed in with his innoculum water. The results were okay, as were results two years ago when he used Thimet.

Despite getting by without Temik, Swinson says he would use the product, if it were available. “Temik is a good product, but you have to get moisture for it to work best. Last year getting moisture for any pesticides was a hit and miss proposition across much of the upper Southeast.

As to what peanut prices will be in 2012, the North Carolina grower says it’s strictly a guessing game at this point. Unlike a vast majority of peanut growers, Swinson doesn’t contract his peanuts prior to harvest, so he is sitting on a very valuable crop and is set up to store or use virtually all his peanuts.

The North Carolina farmer is a staunch advocate of taking care of the bottom line of his family farming operation. He tests products on his farm, often two or three times, before he uses them on large acreage in his farming operation.

He also is a firm believer in giving generic products a chance. “I don’t want anything to do with snake oil, but if a generic product proves as effective as more expensive products, I don’t mind saving the extra money,” Swinson says.

Swinson got into the peanut business in a big way with long-time friend and farming neighbor Jort Hudson. They built a storage facility large enough to store and process both their peanut crops.

When the peanut program went away, Swinson had a lot of acres planted to ideal peanut rotation crops — cotton and corn. His best friend is a lifelong peanut grower, so getting into the peanut business big time was a natural thing to do.

Other than adding some irrigation to his farm, the North Carolina grower says 2012 will be much like 2011 — hopefully without the drought, he says.