U.S. peanut growers increased their acreage substantially in 2005, producing a record crop with good yields. While the winners of the 2006 Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards had production and yields to spare this past year, they also maintained cost efficiency, distinguishing themselves among their fellow farmers.

Each of the winners represents one of the three major U.S. peanut production regions — the Southwest Region, the lower Southeast Region and the Virginia-Carolina Region. Farm Press established the awards program in cooperation with the Southern Peanut Growers Conference and the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation.

“U.S. peanut producers were challenged by rising input costs in 2005, especially for fuel,” says Greg Frey, publisher of the Farm Press Publications. “But our Peanut Profitability winners met that challenge and continued to balance production costs with excellent yields.”

Achieving high yields and grades, maintaining costs, and maximizing profits are all part of the equation for the 2006 honorees, says Frey. “It’s a delicate balancing act, but you can’t have one without the other and remain in peanut production for very long,” he says.

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.

Another part of the education component, presented for the third time this year, is the Peanut Profitability Internship Program. Funds from the program are awarded to a deserving college or university student majoring in agricultural journalism or a related field. This year’s recipient, Matthew Dischinger, is a senior at Auburn University majoring in journalism. He is working the summer semester with Southeast Farm Press.

The winning growers will be honored during the eighth annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference at the Edgewater Beach Resort in Panama City, Fla., July 16-18.

This year’s winners include:

Southwest Region — Jim Davis, Levelland, Texas.

Southeast Region — Andrew Collins, Edison, Ga.

Virginia-Carolina Region — Hugh and Landy Weathers, Bowman, S.C.

Entries in the awards program are evaluated by Marshall Lamb, research leader of the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga. Lamb, who serves as advisor to the program, designed the nomination form that is used by growers in determining production efficiency.

Rotation and irrigation are two commonalities that are readily apparent among this year’s Peanut Profitability winners, says Lamb. Each honoree utilized a good rotation scheme, resulting in reduced disease pressure, increased yields and, ultimately, more profits.

“Rotation seems to be a recurring theme among our winning growers, not only this year but in previous years,” says Lamb. “Two of our honorees for 2006 are on a three-year rotation. It all seems to come back to good rotation. Irrigation wasn’t as important in the Southeast this past year because we received good rainfall, but rotation always makes a difference.”

Each of this year’s winning growers also practiced detailed management of their farming operations, he says, with good record keeping and an evaluation at the end of the year of what worked and what did not work on their farms.

“These growers also are early adapters of new technology, whether it’s an expert irrigation scheduling system or a GPS guidance system. They’re not afraid to try something new if it might boost their cost efficiency, yields and profits,” says Lamb.

The 2006 honorees, in addition to maintaining cost efficiency, also made excellent yields, he says. “They didn’t hold back on inputs. They all did whatever it took to make good quality and yields, including using full fungicide and weed control program. They didn’t hold back in giving the crop whatever it required.”

This year’s Peanut Profitability winners also kept the lid on overhead costs, says Lamb.

“None of our winners this year had an exceptionally large equipment inventory. But they had everything they needed to do the job. Their equipment costs were not eating into their profit margins,” he says.

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.

e-mail: phollis@farmpress.com