To say the 2009 peanut production year was a pleasant surprise would be a major understatement. In many areas of the Southeast, growers were late planting due to rainy conditions in the spring. Then, rain set in again during harvest and some thought the crop would be a wash, literally.

And while there were losses, the yields — in some areas — more than offset those. In Georgia, for example, growers recorded an all-time record peanut yield.

As in years past, peanut producers showed great resiliency this past year in the face of numerous obstacles, and three of the finest have been selected as this year’s Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award winners.

“The 2009 peanut crop showed how resilient peanut producers really are, especially in the Southeast,” says Marshall Lamb, research director for the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga., and advisor for the Peanut Profitability Program. “Rain in the spring caused the widest range in planting dates we’ve ever seen. I remember several meetings where comments were made it would be almost impossible to deliver a bumper crop, because some peanuts will be harvested while others will be in a period of high water demand.

“But, Frank McGill said it best when he called the peanut the ‘Unpredictable Legume.’ I think when you look at all of the variables farmers faced in 2009 and still delivered an excellent crop to the market — this proves U.S. peanut farmers are the best in the world.”

Each of this year’s winning growers represents one of the three major U.S. peanut production regions — the Southwest Region, the Upper Southeast Region and the Lower Southeast Region. Farm Press established the awards program in cooperation with the Southern Peanut Growers Conference and the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation.

The winning growers will be honored during the 12th annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference at the Edgewater Beach Resort in Panama City, Fla., July 22-24.

This year’s winners include:

• Southwest Region: Rusty Strickland, Wellington, Texas.

• Lower Southeast Region: Al Sudderth, Dawson, Ga.

• Upper Southeast Region: Richard Rentz, Branchville, S.C.

This year’s Peanut Profitability winners all maintained good crop rotations — with at least three years out of peanuts — along with excellent weed and fungicide programs, says Lamb.

But the main commonality among the 2010 winners is flexibility, he says. “The 2009 crop year was unique from start to finish in all three growing areas. This required farmers to manage to stay ahead and not get behind on weed control, fungicide programs, and also to do good jobs at harvest. Each of these farmers did excellent jobs of adapting and staying flexible,” says Lamb.

Peanut Profitability winners are usually always early adopters, he adds. “They listen to research and Extension recommendations and put them into place, often times years ahead of other growers. Again, it goes back to these farmers being excellent managers,” he says.

The nominees and winners of this year’s Peanut Profitability Awards are truly impressive, and they are great representatives of the peanut industry, says Greg Frey, publisher of Farm Press Publications. Frey notes that only those producers who balance production costs with excellent yields and quality can earn the distinction of being named Peanut Profitability winners.

“Our 2010 class of winners did it all,” he says. “They controlled costs and maximized profits in their operations. Many factors combine to make for a successful peanut farming operation — you can’t have one without the others and stay in business for very long.”

Recognizing deserving growers, says Frey, is only one part of the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Program. “Education is an equally important component of this program, and Farm Press accomplishes this by publishing numerous articles throughout the year focusing on production efficiency in peanuts. Growers also will benefit from reading about the production practices of our award winners,” he says.

Entries in the awards program are evaluated by Lamb, who designed the nomination form that is used by growers in determining production efficiency.

The Peanut Profitability Awards, explains Lamb, are based solely on production efficiency — honoring those growers who produce the highest yields at the lowest cost per acre. The awards are based on a producer’s entire farm operation, and not just on individual farms or small plots.

“Profit is a function of yield, price and cost,” says Lamb. “It is a three-legged stool, and if you knock one leg off of the stool, it will fall. This program is designed to highlight farmers that keep each leg of the stool strong. More importantly, it helps other farmers learn from what these farmers did so they can improve. It is an excellent educational program as well.”

For more information on this year’s winners and their production practices, see the articles in this issue of Southwest Farm Press.

Sponsors of this year’s awards include include Arysta LifeScience, Provost/Temik, Becker Underwood, Enclosure, Golden Peanut Company, John Deere, National Peanut Board, Syngenta, U.S. Borax, Southeast Farm Press, Southwest Farm Press and Delta Farm Press.

email: phollis@farmpress.com