Oklahoma peanuts show promise at harvest time

Arthur Kell looked over his peanut fields in mid-October, declared the crop “about done” and said he hoped weather would hold long enough to harvest what has been an expensive crop to grow.

“Seed, fertilizer and water expenses are all up and we’re vulnerable to a freeze,” he said.

Kell, who farms just outside Chickasha, Okla., planted most of his crop around May 12 and had to water it most of the season. He uses a lateral-move irrigation system. “We could go over the field once a week and as soon as we got over we had to start back. We irrigated five or six times.”

He said disease pressure was less than he expected. “We started early applying Abound fungicide, mostly for Southern blight and leaf spot control. We made two applications of Headline.”

Disease pressure is worse, he said, in fields with shorter rotation intervals. He likes to plant peanuts behind corn or a grass crop, but occasionally has to settle for an every-other year interval. “Sometimes I have to plant peanuts two years in a row,” he said. “I can always tell a difference in yield and disease pressure.”

He said dryland corn made about 100 bushels per acre.

Kell took advantage of early contracts to lock in about $500 a ton for much of his 2008 crop. Non-contracted production likely will bring about $345 a ton.

“Lower prices after the peanut program ended is the reason Oklahoma reduced acreage,” Kell said. “We need $500 a ton to make a profit with fertilizer and energy prices as high as they are.”

He typically averages two tons of peanuts per acre and plants all runner types.

He’s down to 160 acres of peanuts. “I have planted 280 to 300, but I sold some of my best peanut land and have down-sized the operation.”

He’s hoping for a better harvest season than he had in 2007. “Last year we had too much rain near harvest,” he said. “It was a nightmare. The Washita River flooded in August. That’s the first time I’ve seen it flood since I’ve been here, back to 1945.”

Chad Godsey, Oklahoma State University Extension specialist in the plant and soil sciences department, is the state peanut specialist. He said the 2008 crop promises to be a good one with state averages close to 4,000 pounds per acre. He said a lot of fields are bringing in 4,000 pounds to 4,900 pounds per acre.

“The low end of that range is from Spanish peanuts harvested early. Virginias are at the top.”

He said by mid-October mostly runners remained in the field.

“We had good weather from late September through mid-October,” Godsey said. “Grades have also been good.”

Acreage, at 20,000 is up about 2,000 acres from 2007.

“We’ve seen a few problems with sclerotinia. It’s been worse in the Caddo County area, maybe the worst we’ve seen in several years. Leafspot, surprisingly, has been less than usual.”

At harvest most of the state’s peanut crop looked good. “Vines are healthy.”

Runner peanut harvest had just begun by the middle of October and “could be vulnerable to an early cold snap. We looked at a lot of samples during a Sept. 30 field day and most looked to be about three weeks from maturity. Good temperatures in early October helped them along.”

Godsey said most farmers will err on the early side to schedule harvest. “They will try to avoid the risk of cold injury.”

He said soybean farmers also expect above average yields this fall. “Most soybeans are double cropped behind wheat. “The last few weeks have helped with maturity. If we don’t have an early freeze, we should be okay.”

He said most of the 300,000-acre crop would be harvested after mid-October.

Godsey said canola acreage increased some in 2008. Sesame acreage also jumped “quite a bit. Sesame is another double crop option and it likes hot, dry conditions,” Godsey said. “It’s a good alternate crop to follow wheat. Most farmers can get by with residual nitrogen from the wheat crop. “Nitrogen demand could be 50 pounds per acre or less following wheat.”

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TAGS: Peanuts
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