Texas peanut producers experienced tough growing conditions in 2022, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.
Yields were expected to be below average, but prices were stronger this season. Peanuts were impacted by drought and heat much like most crops across the state, said Emi Kimura, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension state peanut specialist, Vernon.
Texas peanut production is reliant on supplemental irrigation, and water capacities vary from operation to operation. Kimura said low soil moisture, low humidity, extreme heat and windy conditions made it difficult for irrigation to meet crop demand.
Some fields that received around-the-clock irrigation looked good, but will likely produce below-average yields, while others with limited water capacity failed or were expecting very poor yields, she said.
Aside from the drought, Kimura said producers faced few issues. Pest, disease and weed pressure were below average due to the arid conditions, though weeds were becoming an issue in some fields following widespread rainfall.
“The peanut season started off dry, hot and windy, and those conditions were consistent until late-August,” she said. “It has been a tough season.”
Texas peanut acres down
U.S. Department of Agriculture–Farm Service Agency reported that Texas peanut producers planted around 134,000 certified acres after early reports placed the acreage estimate around 170,000 acres, Kimura said. The reduced acreage was likely due to the drought outlook, higher input costs and commodity price competition from other crops like corn and cotton. Peanut producers typically plant between 180,000-190,000 acres annually.
The latest Farm Service Agency report estimates around 19,784 acres failed. Fields that survived the drought were not progressing properly under difficult conditions.
Kimura said peanut pods were not filling properly and some were empty, which will mean reduced yields. When peanuts grow under normal conditions, pegs, or smaller branch-like stems, sprout from the stem as plants search for nutrients and moisture in the soil. Clusters of pods form along those pegs.
But under such dry conditions, Kimura said plants do not have enough water to produce enough pods that could produce peanuts. Heat also factors into the way plants mature. Peanut plants slow their growth when temperatures are above 95 degrees because of reduction in photosynthesis rates.
Digging typically begins around the end of September. But the slow progress as plants tried to survive the harsh summer conditions means harvest could be delayed by a week or two, she said.
Kimura is recommending farmers dig samples in fields to check pod maturity.
“It’s always good to check the pods maturity to see how close they are,” she said. “Some are waiting a few weeks later to check samples, but they need to check more carefully because the variability is so wide depending on water availability.”
Peanut prices higher
Most Texas peanut acres are grown based on contracts before planting. The contracts provide shellers an availability estimate and help producers lock in buyers and prices they can make management decisions around.
Francisco Abello, AgriLife Extension economist, Vernon, said peanut prices this year were stronger than 2021. Prices depend on many factors within each contract, including variety grown and timing of the agreement, but Abello said the likely contract price range was between $600-$625 per ton on average.
Abello estimated Texas producer yields would be 42% below 2021. Last year was a good production year for peanuts, and yields were around 3,600 pounds per acre compared to the 2,200 pounds per acre expected this season.
Texas grows all market types of peanuts, including runners, Virginia, Valencia and Spanish, Kimura said. Runners are mostly utilized in peanut butter, while Virginia peanuts are primarily sold as a snack variety because of their size. Spanish peanuts are smaller with a red skin and are used in confections, candy and peanut butter. Valencia peanuts have three or more kernels per shell, have a sweeter taste and are good for boiling or all-natural peanut butter.
Georgia ranks first in peanut production, growing about 50% of the nation’s crop annually while Texas ranks No. 4 with around 9% of the U.S. output.
Abello said the rest of the peanut-producing states were expecting above-average yields but planted fewer acres. The result is expected to be an 8.4%, or a 2.925-million-ton reduction, in production compared to last year.
Market factors are still unclear regarding 2023 peanut contracts, but ending stocks were expected to be 11% lower than last year, around 919,000 tons, and exports to China were expected to be lower as well. Commodity prices for corn and cotton are also likely to compete for acres.
Kimura said Texas peanut growers are hoping to avoid any late-season issues. In 2020, an early freeze in mid-October damaged some fields. Rain can be an issue after peanuts are dug and are drying down in windrows. Peanuts need four to five days of dry, sunny weather to dry.
“Fields just need enough time to mature properly, and the weather to cooperate with harvest at this point,” she said. “It was a rough season for all crops here in Texas, and we just have to hope for a better season next year.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Soil moisture conditions remained mostly short. Cooler temperatures and above average rainfall improved pasture conditions, but most areas were still battling extreme drought. Runoff water was still needed to fill dry tanks and riverbeds. Supplemental feeding continued, and producers’ hope for another hay cutting remained high. Livestock were in fair condition. Farmers were done harvesting corn and sorghum and were finishing up the cotton. Ranchers and farmers were preparing to plant small grain crops.
Winter wheat planting started. Topsoil moisture from rains received a few weeks ago was now gone. Pastures greened up briefly and were now dry again, and tanks were very low. Some pastures that were recovering were overgrazed. Pastures that were fertilized before receiving good rainfall amounts looked good, and ample grazing or another hay cutting was expected. Most supplemental feeding of cattle ended, and hay supplies were still short. Dryland cotton was in poor condition. Cotton in some areas was blooming, and bolls were beginning to form. Grain sorghum was being harvested. Grasshoppers and armyworms continued to be a problem, and weeds were growing.
Scattered showers throughout the week improved subsoil moisture. There were numerous fields with standing water, especially in low-lying areas. Some cotton was still out in the fields. Rice was nearly all harvested. Rangeland, pasture and hay field conditions were greatly improved. Producers should get at least one hay cutting this year. There were reports of armyworms in fertilized hay meadows and pastures. Winter pasture preparation began, and wheat, oat and ryegrass plantings should begin within the next seven to 10 days. Livestock were doing well, and body conditions were recovering. Many ponds received water or filled completely.
Recent rains helped conditions, but drought continued in many areas. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate. Producers were hoping to get another cutting of hay. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair. The cattle market remained stable. Livestock producers continued to cull herds to deter costs. Armyworm infestations were widely reported. Wild pigs caused an increased amount of damage to pond and lake dams.
Producers were beginning to drill wheat into fields that benefitted from recent rains. Fallow fields were showing a flush of green in the form of weeds. Tillage or some form of management will be needed to prepare for harvest of summer crops or planting cool-season crops. Insect pests were focusing on lush green fields but not causing much economical damage as predator populations were high. Stink bugs and cotton boll worms were the major pests in cotton, and producers were monitoring their numbers. Regrowth in cotton was expected to be an issue following recent rains. Producers were watching for midge and head worms in sorghum fields, but none have reported pests reaching economic threshold levels. Sunflower fields were drying down and later-planted fields were showing beautiful seed heads. Cucumber harvest finished. Cotton was progressing towards boll opening. Cooler temperatures delayed opening some. Corn was being chopped for silage. Cattle were in good condition.
Conditions were favorable for producers over the past few weeks with some areas receiving beneficial rainfall. Despite the rainfall, conditions remained dry, and the soil moisture profile remained short. Pastures and rangelands improved. Grasses and forbs greened up, and cattle were looking better every day. Supplemental feeding slowed down but continued. Wheat planting began on irrigated acres for fall pasture. Sorghum was heading and beginning to turn color, but many heads were not extending due to permanent wilt. Much of the cotton left was under irrigation, but some producers were running out of water and forced to shut down wells. Producers were hoping the recent rainfall would take cotton fields to harvest. Silage harvest was underway.
Topsoil moisture throughout the district was short to adequate. Recent rains helped conditions, but more was needed in most areas. Temperatures cooled off into the upper 60s and mid-70s. Recent rains helped grass growth, but hay was in short supply and high priced. Most crops were harvested or cut for forage/silage. Livestock conditions were improving with mild weather conditions. Grasshoppers continued to be a problem and there were a few reports of fall armyworms.
The average high temperature was 90 degrees with an average low of 67 degrees. Topsoil moisture was declining rapidly despite areas receiving another half-inch of rain. Brewster, Jeff Davis and El Paso counties reported up to 4 inches of rainfall. Crop, rangeland and pasture conditions improved over the past 10 days. Cotton was opening and harvest should begin in a couple of weeks, but yields were expected to be very low. Wheat planting began. Some early planted haygrazer fields will be cut soon. Weeds were an issue for cotton, forage and pecan producers in areas that received significant moisture in recent weeks. Alternaria was reported in cotton due to heavy rains.
Conditions were dry and sunny with seasonal temperatures. Good rains at the end of August were very beneficial. Most pastures were greening up and starting to grow. Producers were recommended to be vigilant with weed management programs this fall following the recent moisture and absence of grass due to drought and overgrazing. Bermuda hay fields were growing, and producers were optimistic about getting a hay cutting before first frost. Insect pest problems were increasing in fields, pastures and home landscapes. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued, and producers were still selling livestock.
Scattered rains delivered up to 0.5 of an inch, but drought conditions persisted in most areas. Most cotton was harvested and/or shredded, but farmers were defoliating some cotton while wheat farmers were preparing for planting. Some wheat was planted. Forages in hay fields and pastures not overgrazed were growing rapidly and should relieve management pressure on livestock producers. Producers continued to feed livestock. Vegetable crops were doing well. Rivers and ponds were back to normal levels.
Soil moisture levels were short to adequate. Scattered rains delivered trace amounts up to 5 inches in some areas. Rains halted fieldwork in wetter areas. Temperatures were in the mid- to high-90s. Defoliation of cotton continued. Some cotton fields were putting on buds, while growers in southern areas were trying to wrap up harvest and clear stalks. Some cotton was expected to see grade reductions related to rains. Peanut fields continued to develop. Sesame harvest was nearing completion. Irrigation on citrus and sugarcane slowed down. Citrus producers reported pest and disease issues following recent rains, including citrus canker. Farmers continued to work fields for next season’s warm-season crops. Pasture and rangeland conditions continued to improve with signs of major regrowth that provided browse and grazing for wildlife and livestock. Livestock were still receiving supplemental feed, and body conditions were improving. Hay fields were being cut and baled, and more harvesting was expected in the coming weeks. There were no signs of armyworms so far, but producers were watching pastures closely. There were reports of mealy bugs in pastures. Feed prices remained high. Cattle sales dropped off, and prices were up on all classes. Brushy plants were putting on new growth and blooming. Stock tanks were full in most areas. Water levels in Falcon Lake were holding steady.