The 2012 peanut production season was literally one for the record books, with growers throughout the U.S. making record-high yields and production. Having accomplished such a feat, many in the industry are asking, “What’s next?” For the answer to this question, it’s important to take a look at what is in the peanut research pipeline – those problems, issues and initiatives currently being addressed that will lead to even more efficient and profitable peanut production. For the next several dys, “Pipelines to Peanut Profitability” will take an in-depth look at these areas of research, what they could mean to growers, and when producers can expect to see practical, on-farm applications of this research.

As Southeastern states begin to take a closer look at regulating agricultural water use, it might be some small comfort for farmers to know that peanuts have been proven to be more drought-tolerant than other commonly grown row crops.

Still, it’s important for growers to know the physiological needs of the crop so they can improve their water-use efficiency.

“Peanuts are more tolerant to dry conditions, and there are more physiological tools that we can use to help the crop respond better to drought,” says Diane Rowland, University of Florida crop physiologist.

Some crops naturally respond to irrigation better than others, she says, and that is linked directly to their physiological responses.

Crop comparisons have shown that irrigation can increase corn yields by 40 percent with, soybeans by 32 percent, cotton by nearly 98 percent, and peanuts by about 25 percent.

“But more isn’t always better – there’s a point of diminishing returns with excess water,” says Rowland. “When you reach the point beyond which a crop can use water physiologically, then it just can’t use anymore.

“At this point, any yield benefit starts to flatten out, and then you’ll start to see detrimental effects from irrigating a crop. When you add in the cost of pumping water, you can really see those diminishing returns.”

The keys to efficiency for growers include maximizing irrigation, applying water just when the crop needs it, and applying it as efficiently and as timely as possible, she says.