The Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award has been presented to more than 40 peanut producers over the past 13 years, but the 2012 class might have topped them all as far as combining the basic tenets of the program, says Marshall Lamb, research director for the National Peanut Research Laboratory and advisor for the program.

This year’s awards were presented in Panama City, Fla., as part of the 14th Annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference. Producers from each growing region of the U.S. Peanut Belt were honored for their production efficiency.

Winners for 2012 included the following: Lower Southeast Region — I.C. Terry Farms, Lake City, Fla.; Upper Southeast Region — Bud Bowers, Luray, S.C.; and Southwest Region — Joe D. White, Tillman County, Okla.

“This program encompasses all the elements of profitability,” says Lamb. “We look at yield — both irrigated and non-irrigated — the price and how it contributes to the total revenue stream, and we also look at the cost side. This group of winners combined probably have brought those elements together better than any group we’ve had.”

It’s hard to believe, says Lamb, that the awards program is honoring its 13th group of growers. “It’s a great program, and I appreciate the opportunity to work with the people of Farm Press and with the growers,” he says.

“We’re looking at production efficiency, marketing and cost-management, including equipment cost-management. Sometimes that means utilizing used equipment and making it work on your farm,” says Lamb.

This year’s honorees showed incredible management skills through devastating drought conditions in the Southwest and in the lower Southeast, he continues. “And our upper Southeast winner has a very field-specific management plan that he employs on his farm. All these growers are innovative in what they do to make and to keep their farms profitable. It was interesting going through their nomination forms and seeing how they rose to the top to become this year’s Peanut Profitability Award winners.”

In addition to recognizing deserving growers, Peanut Profitability also aims to educate, says Lamb. “Early on with this program, we talked about how education needed to be a vital part of it. We want to give something back to the growers who can’t attend this conference. This year, we came up with the Top 10 Keys to Peanut Profitability, or the commonalities that have emerged among our growers during the past 13 years.”

Each class of Profitability Award winners continues to impress with their innovative techniques for achieving bottom-line profits, says Greg Frey, Farm Press publisher.

Purpose of program

“The aim of Peanut Profitability is to recognize growers who have shown amazing adaptability in the face of change, and who have continued to produce profitable crops. Today’s class exemplifies peanut growers who have overcome the challenges of farming while improving their profitability. This award is based on entire farm operations, and not just one or two small plots — that sets it apart from others,” says Frey.

During a question-and-answer session following the awards presentation, this year’s Peanut Profitability honorees discussed an array of topics, including their primary information sources, fungicide spray programs, and seeding rates.

Bowers, the Upper Southeast award winner, says his father told him several years ago he couldn’t afford to run an “‘experimental program.’ So I go out to the experiment stations in the state and see what they’re doing. Right now, I’m planting high-oleic peanut seed, after seeing how they’ve performed in experimental plots,” he says.

Bowers used a new hydraulic seed drill this year and as a result probably used more seed than normal. “We had a little problem with seed varying in size, and we planted considerably more seed than normal with our Virginia peanut varieties.

“We got a good stand, and sometimes $20 extra in seed is like money in the bank. We saw more variations in size this year than I ever remember seeing. We plant from a low of 112 pounds to a high of 143. We had new varieties, and we weren’t sure about the seed size, and we had some large-seeded Virginia peanuts,” he says.

He usually starts his fungicide sprays about 45 days after planting, trying to stay on a schedule of every two weeks. “If it gets dry, we stretch from two weeks to a little bit longer. I have made as many as six applications. It just depends on how late the season goes and if we have to wait before getting the peanuts out. It’s usually about five applications, and we have varieties like Florida-07 that requires more sprays, but it yields well,” says Bowers.

Southwest winner White says he gets most of his information from Oklahoma State University. “We have a great peanut team there, and they come around every year and present their findings. We just get a lot of good information from them, and it helps tremendously,” he says.

White says that in 2011, he stayed with the same seeding rate he’s been using for years.

“Generally speaking, we plant at about the first part of May, and the first fungicide application is made at the first part of July. We usually make another application at the middle of August and one at the middle of September, and that’s our usual program,” he says.

He plants on 40-inch rows because that’s how he plants his cotton crop, and when digging peanuts, he runs the tractor at 2.2 miles per hour.

Work closely with UF

Lower Southeast winners — brothers James and William Terry, along with their cousin Ross Terry — all agree they work closely with the University of Florida when seeking information about peanut production, and that includes planting new varieties in their own fields.

“We’ve worked with the University of Florida and other universities in the area by planting plots,” says James.

“But we always want to plant enough so we can harvest it and say that we’ve done something, so our plots run about five or six acres each, and we grow about six to eight plots per year of different varieties of peanuts. That helps determine what we’ll grow the following year. We’ve never irrigated peanuts, so it’s always a challenge,” he says.

For chemical applications, Ross Terry says they usually follow whatever the county Extension agent recommends. “Each chemical company has a good product, but we usually go with the cheapest because you have to in this day and time,” he says.

As for the seeding rate, James said they increased to about 125 pounds per acre this year because they planted Georgia-06. “The seed was much larger than what we were accustomed to, so we felt like we had to increase the rate to get enough seed per acre.”

The Terry’s spray fungicides every 10 to 15 days after the peanuts are about 45 days old, making a total of eight to 10 sprays, according to weather conditions. They also follow a unique bahiagrass rotation system when growing peanuts.

“One reason for using bahiagrass is to help us with white mold,” says James. “Also, it helps prevent any problems with nematodes. If you’re planting behind bahiagrass, you can’t help but see some yield increase. We try to leave bahia grass in the field at least five or six years before we tear it up and plant peanuts. The benefits are great.”

Sponsors of this year’s awards include AMVAC Chemical Corporation; Arysta LifeScience; Becker Underwood; DuPont Crop Protection; Golden Peanut Company; Helena Chemical Company; INTX Microbials, LLC; Rio Tinto Minerals; Syngenta Crop Protection; National Peanut Board; Southeast Farm Press; Delta Farm Press; and Southwest Farm Press.

(To see the full production story of I.C. Terry Farms, click here. Details of Bud Bowers’ farming operation can be seen here. Joe D. White talks about his Oklahoma peanut operation in an article that can be found here).

phollis@farmpress.com