Jack Chastain, a long-time peanut industry leader and recent inductee into the Peanut Hall of Fame, told growers and peanut industry leaders at last week’s Southern Peanut Growers Association meeting to embrace change or be willing to accept the dire consequences for not doing so.

Chastain is co-owner of Doster Warehouse in Rochelle, Ga. He has been in the peanut buying business since 1970, but has been a peanut farmer all his life.

“Back in the 1960s our growers were still growing some Spanish varieties and a number of runner type varieties, and then along came Florunner peanuts, and we thought we had it made,” Chastain said.

“Developing new peanut varieties didn’t stop, but many growers didn’t see the need for more varieties, because we had this new, highly productive Florunner,” he added.

“Back then, we didn’t see any need to plant more than 50-60 pounds of seed per acre. We thought more than that would crowd out each plant and most of the seed would rot in the ground.

“Fertilizer was standard, regardless of the ground on which a grower planted peanuts — 5-10-15 and 200 pounds per acre was plenty.

“I remember one year we had 6,000 acres of peanuts and cotton, and our total chemical bill was $25,000. Now, you can put much more than that on your pickup truck. Of course we were using DDT —and most of us survived it — and various dusts for insect control.

“We thought we had it made, and we did, if our goal was to grow a maximum of 2,000 pounds of peanuts per acre,” he said.

“Most peanut growers in Georgia at that time thought irrigation was too costly and too hard to deal with, and they were right, too. Moving aluminum drip irrigation lines is something I’ll never forget doing and something I hope no one ever has to do again, Chastain said.