Arkansas peanuts proving profitable in 2017
By Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Oct. 20, 2017
- Pivot irrigation helps overcome dry fall weather
- 30,000 acres of peanuts planted in Arkansas this year
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JONESBORO, Ark. – After a year that, for many Arkansas crops, could best be described as “embattled,” the state’s peanut harvest is coming to its final glory. Slowly.
“Oh, it’s about like watching paint dry,” laughed Craighead County Cooperative Extension Service staff chair Branon Thiesse. “The harvest is moving along as fast as it can — at about one-and-a-half miles an hour.”
Unlike most row crops in Arkansas, harvesting peanuts is a multi-step process, requiring first to be dug from the ground, then allowed to dry, and finally collected with a combine.
“The combine that most people use is one that’s pulled by a tractor,” Thiesse said. “The combine moves slowly, because in addition to the peanuts and the tops that are still connected to them, there’s also clods of dirt and things like that. The combine has to go real slow, so they can be separated out.”
Peanuts, something of a specialty crop in Arkansas, gradually began reasserting themselves as an economically viable option over the past five years, as some Delta growers situated on sandy soils incrementally shifted acreage away from cotton. A June 30 acreage report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated that Arkansas growers planted 30,000 acres of peanuts in 2017, a 6,000-acre increase over 2016.
Between Oct. 8 and Oct. 15, Arkansas growers leaped from having harvested only about 20 percent of that acreage to having harvested nearly half of it, according to the USDA. Travis Faske, extension plant pathologist and acting peanut agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said the fact that peanuts can be unearthed at a much faster rate than they can be thrashed often leads to a production bottleneck.
Beyond the technical challenges of harvesting the crop, Faske said the widespread use of irrigation in peanuts has essentially spared growers possible fallout from an exceedingly dry September.
“Peanuts aren’t terminated by cutting off the water, like we do with corn, soybeans and cotton,” Faske said. “Peanuts are terminated by digging. We don’t want them to get dry, but irrigation typically makes it a non-issue. We don’t have any dryland peanut fields in the state, but maybe a few dryland corners of a pivot field.”
Most peanuts are grown and sold on contract, which Faske said helps to somewhat insulate growers from market fluctuations. Contract prices in 2017 are averaging over $500 a ton, he said.
“The guys who are doing peanuts and cotton are smiling,” Faske said. “They’re having a good year, overall. Peanuts are definitely profitable again for the 2017 season.”
To learn about peanut production in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service