“We changed the whole physiology of the plant in terms of how it processed its nutrients, water and sunlight. These were season-long effects that clearly improved the plant’s ability to produce more peanuts versus the peanut plants that had access to all the water they needed,” he adds.

The big question, Faircloth says, is does prime acclimation work in the field, compared to in a lab or plot-sized field. The definitive answer is yes, the USDA agronomist says.

In production-sized plot research by the University of Georgia, rain-fed peanuts averaged about 3,000 pounds per acre. Using standard irrigation scheduling, which called for 12 irrigations over the growing season, yields were bumped by 300 pounds per acre — not a good impact on profitability, Faircloth notes. And, using evapotranspiration tables and 11 irrigation events, yields were bumped to 4,000 pounds per acre.

In the prime application plots, peanuts were stressed 30, 45 and 60 days and produced higher yields than rain-fed crops or peanuts irrigated 10-12 times a season.

The yield increase isn’t the most important factor, Faircloth contends, it’s the amount of water saved. Irrigation use was cut nearly in half — 6-7 times during the season — and still beat the yields of these other systems.

It works well for cotton, too. Fully irrigated on strip-tilled cotton, prime acclimation using 70 percent of water supply produced the highest yields and even 50 percent of maximum water needs produced nearly as high yields, Faircloth says.

The wave of the future for water usage on peanuts and other irrigated crops in the Southeast seems to be to cut water usage, improve yields and maximize profits.