Cornelius Enns, the 2011 Peanut Profitability Award winner from the Southwest, planted no peanuts in 2011.

Prolonged drought — less than one inch from July 2010 through August 2011 — in Gaines County, Texas, made peanuts a risky venture with limited irrigation capacity. So Enns, who farms near Seminole, put all his acreage in cotton.

The dryland crop failed early. The irrigated acreage fared little better.

“I stripped only three circles,” Enns said. “I destroyed the cotton under the other four.”

As he evaluates prospects for 2012, he’s looking at record prices for peanuts but is not committed to planting them just yet.

“If it rains between now and April, I’ll plant 160 acres of peanuts,” Enns said just before Thanksgiving. Without adequate rainfall, he’ll stay with the less water-intensive crop.

He’s hopeful. “We had about two inches of rain in mid-September,” he said. “We got another two-tenths two weeks later. That’s the only rain we’ve had since July, 2010.”

He said the area has just missed several rains in the past few weeks and is encouraged about the prospects of accumulating soil moisture before spring planting time.

“We’re just hoping for rain,” he said.