The Texas Peanut Producers Board has reworked its mission statement for 2012 to reflect expectations of a crop being devastated by the worst drought in Texas history.
“This is the worst drought since the state began keeping records,” says Shelly Nutt, TPPB executive director, from her Lubbock office. Those records go back to the late 1880s, she says.
“We’re eliminating some valuable programs,” Nutt says, “and working with a three-issue mission statement for next year.”
That mission will include efforts to improve grower profitability through research, maintain research that focuses on new releases yearly that are higher yielding and high oleic, and promote peanut breeding of high oleic, stress tolerant peanut varieties.
Nutt says stress has been more than growers could keep up with this year. “We saw peanuts in Terry County recently that had received a lot of (irrigation) water. But when we pulled up the plants there was nothing underneath. Peanuts should be heavy this time of year.
“Farmers simply can’t put enough water on to cool the ground enough for peanuts to peg. The hot soil burns the pegs off. Plants might look good, but they have no peanuts.”
She says that condition applies all across the West Texas peanut production area.
“Farmers have already put a lot of money into this crop,” she says. “But a lot of acres will be failed as farmers despair of putting more money into the crop.”
She fears that some young farmers, who have not farmed long enough to build equity, may not survive.
The harsh growing conditions and estimated yield loss comes on top of a significant acreage reduction — about 50 percent less than last year. Latest Farm Service Agency certified acreage estimates show a 100,000-acre Texas crop, Nutt says. Other estimates put the crop at 95,000 acres.
“That’s down from an earlier USDA estimate of 180,000 acres. We had guessed only 65,000 to 70,000 and were estimating 3,000 pounds per acre.”
The higher acreage number may allow Texas to reach earlier production estimate, but with a much lower yield outlook. “Now, were looking at possibly 100,000 acres, but a yield of only 1,800 pounds.”
Acreage and production remain big question marks. Recent USDA estimates put the crop at 135,000 acres and a 3,200-pound yield. Nutt says she can’t see where those acres are coming from. “And Texas growers will do well to hit 1,800 pounds per acre unless it rains, A LOT, in the next 2 weeks.
“If it rained now — two inches or more — and cooled off, and if we get a late fall, we could make a better crop. But that doesn’t seem to be in the forecast.”
She says crop maturity also is an issue. “When temperatures reach 90 to 95 degrees, peanuts stop growing. We’ve been reaching that temperature by 11 a.m.
“Farmers have seen no disease and no insects this season,” Nutt says. “But they also see no peanuts. It’s just too dry.”