“The one thing farmers can manage is their fixed or equipment costs, and our Peanut Profitability winners have always done an outstanding job of that. In 13 years of collecting data for this program, our winners always do an excellent job of managing fixed costs — they maintain low fixed costs and a low overhead,” says Lamb.

In fact, he adds, there have been at least two years when the award winner was decided by the amount of fixed costs.

The equipment side of fixed costs is a balancing act, says Lamb.

“It’s important for farmers to have modern equipment so that it’ll be more efficient than older equipment, but they need to balance that need against having too much overhead in new equipment costs.

“If their equipment is old or worn out, then it’ll be inefficient, and it’ll end up costing the farmer in the long-run as far as repairs and lost time in the field.”

Also, most peanut producers now use GPS for more efficient planting and digging, says Lamb.

The National Peanut Research Laboratory works with farmers on a daily basis, says Staci Ingram, technician with the lab, to match equipment to the needs of their individual farms.

“If they buy new equipment, we want to help them ensure they have enough acreage to justify the cost,” says Ingram.

This same principle is applied to irrigation, she says. “By following an irrigation scheduling program, farmers don’t water more than is needed, and they don’t spend more money irrigating than is necessary. Irrigation scheduling helps growers meet the physiological needs of the crop in an efficient way.”

No. 5: Efficient water use

During a time of restricted water use and multi-year droughts, it’s not enough anymore to simply water your peanut crop — you have to irrigate with precision and efficiency, and irrigation scheduling has become a common practice of winners of the Peanut Profitability Award, says Lamb.

Many Peanut Profitability winners have relied on Irrigator Pro, a computerized expert system designed to provide irrigation scheduling recommendations based on scientific data, resulting in conservation-minded irrigation management.

Irrigator Pro for Peanuts — designed and maintained by the staff at the National Peanut Research Laboratory — manages peanut irrigation and pest management decisions, says Lamb.

“The objective is to improve economic returns for irrigated peanut production and reduce risk associated with aflatoxin, foreign material, immaturity, off-flavor, chemical residues and negative environmental impacts,” he says.

Irrigation recommendations are based on more than 20 years of scientific research data and information.

To begin, growers enter field data, including planting date, variety planted, previous crop, soil type and irrigation capacity. Then, they place a digital minimum/maximum soil thermometer in the field, in the row, a few weeks after the crop has emerged.

They also place a rain gauge in this same area as well as outside the pivot to record rainfall.

The grower then marks the sensors in the field with flags because they will be difficult to find later in the season.