From making a bumper crop in dryland conditions to irrigating 25 times, the 2014 Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award winners covered the entire spectrum in weather conditions this past year, all while maintaining the efficiency required to earn this prestigious honor.

“In the Southeast, and in the Virginia-Carolinas region, it could best be categorized as a year of excessive rainfall throughout the growing season and up until harvest. In other word, it looks a lot like how we started this year,” says Marshall Lamb, research director of the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga., and advisor for the Peanut Profitability Award. “Of course, west Texas was extremely dry.”

All winning growers achieved outstanding yields, says Lamb, and it was because they were timely with either their fungicide or their irrigation applications.

“I know of some farmers who got behind on their fungicide programs last year, and it cost them dearly from a yield standpoint,” says Lamb. “Our Southeast and V-C winners stayed on top of their programs, and it paid off. Our Southwest winners never let up, irrigating 25 inches during the course of the season. To make 3 ½ tons per acre and to have to irrigate 25 inches to do it is a phenomenal feat. They worked hard to make this crop.”

Looking throughout the U.S. Peanut Belt for 2013, growers delivered the second highest-yielding crop ever, says Lamb, even with excessive rainfall in the Southeast and prolonged drought in the West.

“It just goes back to the high caliber of farmers we have today. They’re doing whatever they need to produce the crop, and they’re delivering it,” he says.

With the wet weather the Southeast and V-C growers had to contend with, it all goes back to the fungicide programs in those areas, says Lamb.

“They got on top of disease threats in the beginning and they stayed on top throughout the production season. Our Texas growers made one fungicide treatment, but they can get by with that in their arid conditions. They recognized the threat of drought and very aggressively irrigated throughout the year. All these winners recognized the need to be early or timely with their respective fungicide and irrigation programs.”

Historically, Peanut Profitability Award winners have had relatively low overhead costs and have been extremely efficient operators, notes Lamb.

“Owen Yoder of the lower Southeast says all of his equipment is paid for and is fully depreciated. That has been a common theme in the 15-year history of the program – the ability to efficiently handle overhead costs.

“It’s a matter keeping the right balance of equipment that has depreciated out versus that which may still have some depreciation on it. And the right balance relative to the number of acres that the farmer is growing. All of our honorees had really outstanding yields, and they did a great job of marketing, receiving well above the average price received by growers for this past year’s crop.”

Award winners to be honored

The winning growers will be honored during the 16th annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference at the Edgewater Beach Resort in Panama City, Fla., July 24-26. 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.

This year’s honorees include:

Southwest Region — Isaac, John and George Guenther, Gaines County, Texas.

Lower Southeast Region — Owen Yoder, Orrville, Ala.

Upper Southeast Region — Billy Bain, Dinwiddie, Va.

The Peanut Profitability Award isn’t a typical high-yield award for a grower’s selected plots or acreages, says Greg Frey, publisher of Farm Press Publications. “Our Peanut Profitability Award winners are in a class by themselves. They balance production costs with excellent yields and quality across their entire peanut production operations. It recognizes the entire farming operation” says Frey.

The 2014 Peanut Profitability Award winners, as those in past years, controlled costs while maximizing yields and profits, says Frey. “When peanut producers achieve this balance, it’s important that we recognize them for their accomplishments, and that’s the aim of this program” he says.

But recognizing deserving growers isn’t the sole purpose of the Peanut Profitability Award, he adds. “Education is an equally important component of the program. There’s much to learn about successful peanut production, and Farm Press helps to make this information available by publishing numerous articles throughout the year focusing on marketing strategies and maintaining high yields and efficiency. Growers also benefit each year from reading about the productions practices of our award winners.”

Lamb and his staff at the National Peanut Research Laboratory evaluate entries each year for the Peanut Profitability Award. Lamb designed the nomination form that is used by growers in determining production efficiency.

The Peanut Profitability Awards, explains Lamb, are based solely on production efficiency — honoring those growers who produce the highest yields at the lowest cost per acre. The awards are based on a producer’s entire farm operation, and not just on individual farms or small plots.

Lamb explains that profit is a function of three equally important factors – yield, price and cost.

“More importantly, this program helps other farmers learn from what our winning producers did so that they can improve their individual operations. In addition to being a recognition program, it’s also an excellent educational program. We started this program a long time ago, and I’ve had growers tell me they have learned from our educational efforts. That’s gratifying, and it’s really the reason we’re doing this in the first place.”

For more information on this year’s winners and their production practices, see the articles in this issue of Southeast Farm Press. Sponsors for this year’s Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award include Agri-AFC, AMVAC Chemical Corporation, Arysta LifeScience, BASF, DuPont Crop Protection, Golden Peanut Company, Helena Chemical Company, John Deere, the National Peanut Board, Southeast Farm Press, Delta Farm Press and Southwest Farm Press.