Last year was a lesson in perseverance for many U.S. peanut producers, as a promising spring soon gave way to dry, extremely hot weather conditions during summer and early fall.

But thanks to near-perfect harvest weather and the performance of new varieties, some growers were rewarded with exceptional crops, including the 2011 Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award winners.

“All of these winners did an excellent job of managing their costs in a very extreme year without sacrificing yield,” says Marshall Lamb, research director for the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga., and advisor for the Peanut Profitability Program.

Last year, peanut growers in the United States averaged 3,250 pounds with one of the worst droughts in years in areas of the lower Southeast and the Southwest, says Lamb.

Like Peanut Profitability winners from previous years, the 2011 honorees did an excellent job of managing fixed costs, he says. The awards are based on production from the previous year.

“It’s difficult many times for farmers to manage variable costs because of a dry year and increased irrigation costs. And, whenever, there’s a pest outbreak, they have to use more chemicals. But the one thing farmers can manage is their fixed or equipment costs, and these winners did an outstanding job of doing that.

“In more than 10 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.

The 2011 winners followed “the basics,” he adds. “The basics include good herbicide, fungicide and fertility programs. It’s all about maintaining a basic production system as recommended by research. These growers did all of the basics and they did not cut corners,” he says.

A good rotation also was common among these producers, says Lamb, noting that the Lower Southeast region winner also had a statewide high yield in Georgia of 6,626 pounds per acre.

“Our Lower Southeast winner used IrrigatorPro to schedule irrigation on his peanuts, and in a year like last year, that was a key to 3-ton-per-acre yields. In Texas, weather always is a challenge, and our Southwest winner applied 14 inches of irrigation in 2010.”

Each of this year’s winning growers represents one of the three major U.S. peanut production regions — the Southwest Region, the Upper Southeast Region and the Lower Southeast Region. Farm Press established the awards program in cooperation with the Southern Peanut Growers Conference and the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation.

The winning growers will be honored during the 12th annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference at the Edgewater Beach Resort in Panama City, Fla., July 21-23.