EDITOR'S NOTE — Organizers of the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award have reviewed production data from previous winners to arrive at a “Top 10 Keys to Peanut Profitability.” This list of successful production practices will be presented in descending order during the next several months in issues of Southeast Farm Press and on this website, with sponsorship provided by DuPont Crop Protection. The Peanut Profitability Award, based on production efficiency in whole-farm situations, is entering its 13th year and is administered by Marshall Lamb, research director for the National Peanut Research Laboratory, and his staff.

Reduced-tillage comes in at No. 8 and precision farming is listed as the No. 7 key to peanut profitability in the Southeast.

These keys are intrinsically tied, with new technology offering peanut growers ever-changing opportunities to be more precise in all areas of peanut production — none more so than with basic tilling of the soil.

Cost comparisons of peanuts versus corn and cotton still provide a comparative economic advantage for fiber and grain. To maximize profits and be more competitive with these traditional crops of the Southeast, peanut growers are going to need to refine all the cost inputs that go into producing their crop.

The concept of reduced-tillage peanuts isn’t new. Then Auburn University Agronomists Gale Buchanan and Dana Sturkie introduced the science of strip-tilling peanuts back in 1973.

A few years later Auburn Weed Scientist Glenn Wehtje added proven weed and grass management strategies to the concept, but it had been slow to take off, until large tracts of new peanut land came into production, primarily in South Carolina and Florida over the past few years.

In North Carolina, Peanut Specialist David Jordan says many long-time peanut growers remain cautious about tillage systems. “There is no getting around the fact most of our growers grow Virginia type peanuts, which are larger and inherently more difficult to dig,” he says.

“No-till, strip-till and stale seedbed offer alternatives to traditional methods. In strip-till, growers prepare a narrow band for planting. That helps with stand establishment.” He says the stale seedbed may be a good compromise between conventional and no-till.

Peanuts can be produced successfully with many different tillage systems, but in any system, they do better on a slight bed. On most soils, at least a 16-inch wide, flat bed is needed for optimum production. If land is disked flat, growers can throw up a bed with coulters on the planter.

Jordan warns that new growers interested in growing peanuts need to pay special attention to their soil type before making the decision to go with strip-tillage or other reduced-tillage systems.

“Heavy soils may prevent farmers from harvesting the entire crop they've made. “They need to be careful about the fields they select for conservation-tillage,” he says.