Texas peanut growers have favorable market and growing conditions, and with a little down-the-stretch cooperation from Mother Nature, 2021 could be a bumper year, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.
Emi Kimura, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension state peanut specialist, Vernon, said despite delays, fewer planted acres and slow progress, Texas peanut growers were expecting above-average yields.
Kimura said the season started with planting delays due to very wet conditions. For example, peanut-producing areas that received 1.9 inches of rainfall from April to September last year received 1.8 inches of rainfall in April alone this year.
Rains did not stop through July, Kimura said.
“We appreciate the rain, but it did not stop, and we were behind at least two weeks,” she said. “Acres in Central Texas missed their planting window because they could not access fields. They were waiting and waiting but had to give up and look for other options.”
Texas peanut crop behind schedule
Producers in Texas’ top peanut region – West Texas – were able to plant, as well as in South Texas and the Rolling Plains, but overall acreage was expected to be down slightly, Kimura said. Planted peanut acreage in Texas was estimated at 178,000 acres compared to around 190,000 in 2020.
Despite fewer acres and trouble getting the crop planted, Kimura said Texas peanut producers are hopeful due to excellent moisture and overall good growing conditions. Last year, widespread drought and a hard freeze in late October contributed to a below-average production season.
Rain, cooler temperatures and cloudy days have slowed the crop’s progress after delayed plantings, but the moisture has allowed plants to produce heavy pod sets, and recent weather has provided sun and heat plants need to mature.
The outlook remains cautiously optimistic, however, Kimura said. Farmers must avoid problems like disease and pests, but most are proactive when it comes to fungus and insects that could reduce crop yield or quality.
Kimura believes proactive management for diseases has kept them in check so far and that the main pest problem this year has been weeds because of wet conditions and late canopy development.
But Mother Nature is beyond the producers’ control. An early frost poses the biggest threat to the 2021 harvest, which typically begins the first week in October, Kimura said.
The delays and slow progress through July could push harvest for many fields later into October than preferred, Kimura said. Last year, the first frost arrived in the Rolling Plains during the second week in October.
“We’ve talked to producers in West Texas and the Rolling Plains, and those are the two regions we worry about an early freeze,” she said. “We need a warmer September to push the plants along and help us catch up. That would help, but we also are hopeful the first frost is later than last year.”
Peanut prices good for producers
An early frost would translate into grade reductions, Kimura said. Grade reductions would be disappointing for producers who are looking at a bumper crop and good market prices.
Francisco Abello, AgriLife Extension economist, Vernon, said a majority of Texas peanut acres are grown according to contracts agreed upon before planting. The contracts provide shellers an availability estimate and helps producers lock in buyers and prices they can make management decisions around.
Abello said high demand, low U.S. stocks and acreage reductions in major peanut-producing areas, including Georgia, created strong contract prices for producers – $575 per ton on average, up $100 per ton compared to last year.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s five-year average peanut price is $417 per ton depending on variety, Abello said, while average prices for the last 10 years average close to $466 per ton. USDA pricings are still far from those prices in the past.
“Domestic demand, consumption and increased exports led to a price jump,” he said. “With producers in other areas looking at other commodities like cotton and corn as a profitable rotation option, we don’t expect there to be any significant gains in peanut stocks, but we do expect demand to remain high.”
Abello said the average contract price bodes well for producers who have endured breakeven prices for years. Increased demand for peanut butter has been a major factor in declining stocks and that demand is likely to remain steady.
“This is a much better position for Texas peanut growers,” he said. “If they locked in around the average price and fields deliver on yield and quality expectations, it could be a good season for them.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Grain harvest was underway. Moisture levels were complicating grain harvest. Heavy dews, scattered showers, coupled with very high humidity slowed down the drying process in most corn and grain sorghum plants. Corn and sorghum growers were stopping harvest midway through a field due to high moisture levels, thus slowing harvest. Harvest should ramp up with warmer, sunnier weather upcoming. Pastures looked good, but some producers were still fighting armyworms, especially in newly cut hay fields. Hot weather and no rain would help end the current armyworm threat. Hay producers were cutting hay as weather allowed. Cooler and wetter-than-normal May-July period allowed forage grasses to remain green and extended grazing activity. Good grazing may possibly result in delayed marketing of livestock into early fall. Cotton fields were in extraordinary condition.
Conditions were mostly dry with a few pop-up showers, some of which yielded good rainfall. Some areas reported 0.5-6 inches of rainfall. Summer tillage continued in wheat stubble. Hay making was delayed by rainfall, but cutting, raking and baling was active in some areas with good quality and yields reported. Sudan grass patches looked good and nearing a second cutting. Topsoil dried out from sunny, hot days. Pastures looked good, but some were showing moisture stress, and grasshoppers and armyworms were still an issue. Producers in some areas reported pastures were greener this August than they had ever seen. Cotton looked fair to good, but there were reports of armyworm and flea hopper pressure in some counties. Sorghum and corn were nearing harvest. Cattle looked good with calves making good gains. Some shipping of stocker cattle was delayed by good grazing availability.
Hot and humid conditions prevailed with showers were reported in some areas. Grain sorghum harvest was nearing completion, but there were some late-planted fields and fields in wet areas yet to be harvested. Some sorghum producers abandoned fields and were waiting to collect insurance. Corn was being harvested, and yields were fair to good in most areas. A small amount of cotton was defoliated and should be harvested soon if weather permits. Rice harvest conditions were less than ideal as wet field conditions caused concern for ratoon rice crop yields. Hay baling delays continued due to rainfall events, but hay production was at record levels after the first cutting. Hay meadows were fertilized again in hopes of a late cutting. Forage producers continued to battle fall armyworms, but repeat applications were necessary due to frequent showers. Rangeland and pasture conditions were incredible for this time of the year. Livestock were in good shape, and prices remained strong.
Hay production was still going strong. Recent rains and below average temperatures made for ideal hay production conditions. Pasture and rangeland conditions were good to excellent. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate. Livestock were doing fair to good, and cattle markets were steady to stronger. Armyworms and grasshoppers remained an issue. Wild pig activity continued.
Crops across the district were in good condition with the frequent rains. Producers started irrigating again. Cotton farmers reported many fields were blooming, and most fields ranged from just beginning to bloom with more than six nodes above white flower to past physiological cutout with 3.5 nodes above white flower. Bollworms were beginning to be found infesting fields, and scouting recommendations were issued, particularly in varieties with lesser than Bollgard II or no BT technology. Cotton aphids were the most prevalent insect in many acres. Corn fields were in good condition, and much of the crop was mature. Most sorghum was headed out and will start coloring soon. Peanuts were doing very well with mostly excellent health of pods and foliage. Cattle were in good condition.
Hot, dry weather reduced topsoil moisture levels in pastures and crops. Soil moisture levels were short to adequate throughout the district. Pasture and rangeland conditions were poor to fair. Corn, sorghum and cotton were mostly in fair to good condition with some reports of excellent corn conditions in southern areas. Soybeans conditions were fair to excellent. Fallow fields were being plowed and sprayed. Producers were spraying for southwestern corn borer. Spider mite numbers were increasing amid drier weather.
Topsoil moisture throughout the district was mostly short to adequate. Temperatures were a little cooler than normal with some daily highs below 90 degrees. A few pop showers delivered precipitation. Hotter temperatures were starting to take a toll on some pastureland. Farmers were hoping for a little rain for crops and pastures. Grain sorghum and soybeans were doing well, and cotton looked good. Corn was starting to struggle a little in some spots. Bermuda and Bahia grasses were producing very well for August. Armyworms, grasshoppers and aphids were at treatable levels. Hay cutters were trying to wrap up second cuttings and hoping for a third. Spring-born calves looked excellent.
Temperatures were mild for this time of year. The highest reported temperature exceeded 100 degrees, but lows reported were in the lower 60s. Widespread rainfall and localized flooding was reported in southwest areas of the district with over 4 inches reported. Northern areas continued to receive rain with amounts between 0.5-1 inch. High winds were reported across the district and fire danger continued to be high. Rangeland conditions continued to improve thanks to a strong monsoon season with more rain in the forecast.
Hot, dry weather increased the need for moisture on pastures and crops. Fallow fields were being plowed and sprayed. Producers were spraying for southwestern corn borer, and spider mite numbers were increasing due to drier weather.
Recent rainfall was still causing delays in low-lying areas. Pastures and fields were in fair condition, and livestock were in good condition. Locations around Walker County were beginning to dry up somewhat even with the scattered showers. Rice harvest was starting to progress and should ramp up with drier conditions. Hay production was still not looking good due to wet conditions. There was plenty of grass but very few producers were able to cut, dry and bale between rains. Some hay was cut and rained on while some meadows awaited a first cutting. Rangeland and pasture conditions were poor to excellent with mostly good conditions being reported. Soil moisture levels were very short to adequate with adequate levels being most common.
Rainfall received across the district ranged from trace amounts up to 2.5 inches. Livestock were in fair to good condition, and markets seemed steady. Stocker cattle going to the sale barns this fall were expected to be heavier than in years past. Weaning of lambs and goats was underway. Wildlife was in good condition. Rangeland and pasture conditions were good. Producers halted harvests where weather made it too wet to continue. Bandera County reported a rise in bacterial and fungal infections in trees due to excessive precipitation. Hay bailing continued. Corn and sorghum harvests progressed where moisture levels allowed. Soil preparation for fall and winter crops was also delayed by weather. Fall gardeners were putting plants in the ground and expecting good production.
Higher temperatures and scattered showers continued. Some areas reported temperatures beyond 100 degrees while others reported temperatures in the 80s. La Salle County reported up to 2 inches of rainfall, Live Oak County reported 1-3 inches and Jim Hogg County reported up to half an inch. Soil moisture levels were adequate, but higher temperatures were contributing to declining conditions in some areas. Recent rains and wet conditions were delaying fieldwork in some areas. Sorghum and corn harvests continued in drier areas with good yields reported along with some sprouting damage. Grain harvest was complete in southern parts of the district. Cotton continued to develop, but some fields in southern areas were in saturated fields and standing water. Cotton lint was drooping on plants with open bolls due to rains. Some cotton fields were defoliated. Peanut fields were progressing well. Watermelon and cantaloupe producers were still harvesting some fields. Irrigated Coastal Bermuda grass fields were producing good bales. Pasture and rangeland conditions were good to very good. Sunflowers and sorghum food plots were seeding out. Tuna berries on cactus were providing nutrition for wildlife. Ranchers were providing supplemental feed to livestock and wildlife. Cattle prices were consistent. Hay producers continued cutting and baling hay where weather allowed. Forage production for hay bales and grazing going into fall looked promising for many areas. Stock tanks were full to holding steady. Rains helped sugarcane and citrus producers reduce irrigation costs. Some citrus trees continued to show signs of recovery from the winter storm, but some producers were opting to uproot badly damaged and dead trees for a fresh start.