The 2012 peanut crop hit record highs in almost all states across the Southeast. Growers now have to decide just how many acres they want to devote to a crop that brought in high yields and big bucks last year. With tons in carryover and a flat domestic market, growers must decide if they can depend on the soaring overseas demand.
Speakers at the 34th Annual South Carolina Peanut Growers' Meeting strove to provide growers with the tools they need to make informed decisions in the coming year. Held in the heart of the state's peanut belt at the Santee Convention Center, with more than 300 in attendance, the research-based program presented plenty of up-to-date information. It was also a time for growers, industry representatives and researchers to mingle and compare notes.
"2012 will be a year to remember for a long time," Richard Rentz, chairman of the South Carolina Peanut Board, said. "It broke the record year, 1943, during World War II when oil was needed for the war effort."
Dell Cotton, director of the Peanut Growers Cooperative Marketing Association, emphasized that farmers need to consider the current market demand when deciding on how many acres to plant in 2013.
"If you go out there and grow without regard to supply and demand, you are only hurting yourself," Cotton said. "The 2012 crop surplus will hang over this market for a few years."
Cotton noted he was not saying that anybody planted too many peanuts in 2012. The fact that South Carolina growers, along with those in Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, Florida, Mississippi and North Carolina, all increased their acreage last year and had tremendous yields made for a record crop.
"Right now, consumption of peanut products in the U.S. is flat or going down," Cotton said. "China and some other places are buying more for crushing, and this could be a big plus--a good thing if we can supply that market now and keep it."
Regardless of the number of acres a grower decides to plant, they still want to focus on good management, lowering inputs and increasing yields. Dr. Tim Brenneman, peanut plant pathologist with the University of Georgia, gave growers the tools to make disease management decisions.
"You have a wide array of products and options to manage disease," Brenneman said. "You just need to pick the right produce and manage and use it properly."
Brenneman covered the most recent research being done to control the major peanut diseases--white mold, Cylindrocladium black rot (CBR) and leaf spot. Variety selection, along with timing and method of fungicide application, are critical considerations, Brenneman said.
"Any time you can save money it is a good idea, but you need to remember the importance of choosing carefully to get the best results," he said.
When it comes to choosing a variety with high disease resistance, Bailey comes highly recommended and has proven itself in trials, Brenneman said.
Growers received a copy of the Clemson Extension 2013 Peanut Money-Maker Production Guide, sponsored by the South Carolina Peanut Board and the National Peanut Board. Scott Monfort, extension peanut specialist, gave a research progress report that touched on the topics the guide covered in detail.
In 2013, growers will need to produce more peanuts per acre while reducing input costs per acre, or at least manage their input costs more closely, Monfort said.
As stated in the production guide, Monfort reiterated the five keys to high-quality, 2-ton peanuts: (1) a well-drained soil, (2) suitable rotation crops (cotton, corn or other grasses), (3) timely water during pod fill, (4) good harvest weather and (5) timely management operations.
"The last is one of the most important," he said.
Monfort cautioned growers not to put any particular peanut variety on a pedestal and forget about the others.
"Different ones do better in different situations, such as varying disease pressure and whether they are dryland or irrigated," Monfort said.
For more information on the Peanut Money-Maker Production Guide, contact Monfort at firstname.lastname@example.org
, or call the Edisto Research and Experiment Center at 803-284-3343, ext. 231.
Jose Payero, irrigation specialist with Clemson University, covered irrigation scheduling and management. Farmers often use imprecise methods for deciding when a crop needs water, Payero said. Simply feeling the soil or looking at the condition of the plant can be misleading, he said.
"Farmers have access to so many technologies to help with making irrigation management decisions," Payero said.
He encouraged growers to use irrigation wisely. The time will come for South Carolina, as it already has in other states, when government regulations will demand this.
Tyron Spearman of The Spearman Agency in Tifton, Ga., talked peanuts, politics and markets. U.S. peanut production was up 85 percent in 2012, with a record 3,370,700 tons, he said.
"In South Carolina alone, production was up 69 percent," Spearman said.
Appealing contracts, ideal weather, good rainfall at pegging time and access to more productive varieties all came together in 2012, he said. The 2013 peanut market will depend on many factors, including planting of alternate crops, the movement of stored peanuts overseas and at home, whether or not growers are affected by the drought and sheller contract offers.
"Can we grow the market is the question," Spearman said, pointing out the recent increase in sales to China alone.
Spearman also gave an update on the Farm Bill, which passed in the Senate but has failed to come to the floor in the House. He noted that Sixth District U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn (D-SC) was now serving on the Congressional Peanut Caucus.
Lauren Highfill Williams, marketing and communications associate with the National Peanut Board, gave an update on how Check-Off dollars were being used to sell more peanuts across the U.S. Numerous promotions throughout 2012 educated the public on the nutritional value and versatility of including peanuts in their diet, she said.
Winners of the Peanut Yield Contest were announced. Emmett Rouse of Luray in Hampton County was recognized as the state champion. Rouse grew 573.8 acres and had a top yield of 5,816 pounds per acre.
Delano R. Kneece & Son, Inc. was the district champion. The Kneece farm is near Pelion in Lexington County. With 401.6 acres in peanuts in 2012, their winning yield was 5,295 pounds per acre.
Growers were able to visit numerous industry exhibits during the day. Three Grand Prizes were awarded, including: one season's use of a new four or six-row KMC Peanut Combine, won by Jimmy McMillan; a new CrustBuster/Speed King, Inc. Twin Row Peanut Planter for one season's use, won by Bill Hallman; and from Amadas Industries, an equipment discount certificate worth $10,000, won by Delano Kneece.