Risk of Double Cropping Wheat and Peanuts

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Question and my answer related to peanuts following wheat and ammonium sulfate at mid season. I will probably include the table in 2012 Peanut Information.

Question

We have recently talked to our peanut buyer and the contracts for next year are going to be around $850/ton with this being said I wanted to ask you if it would be feasible to plant peanuts behind our earliest wheat that we pick. We will dry the wheat and try hard to get it out the last week of May or the first week of June. Do you think that we can make a crop of peanuts behind wheat, because if you can we can stand to make a lot of money like that double cropping. Anyway I wanted to ask you this before I went to my dad and he told me that I was crazy. I honestly think that you can and I believe that we can, especially if we water them in order to get them growing fast. Also I have another thought, do you think that it would be wise to apply maybe 1-200 lbs of ammonium sulfate mid-growing season to really try to grow them fast or what would be your best approach?

Answer

Very good questions. We have had a comprehensive planting and digging date study for the past 3 years. I have pulled together the yield data so you can see my logic. Over the three years we had significantly less yield when comparing June 8 plantings to May 5 or May 22. If contracts are at the value listed below, that translates into $363/acre less by delaying planting. Honestly, I think June 8 is a stretch to double crop wheat and peanuts. If the planting date goes from June 8 to June 20 I don’t know how much less you might get (above the $363/acre you have already lost.) And, even if you pick up some time by keeping the peanuts well watered, you simply run out of heat units. This year we had a cool snap in late September that slowed or shut down further development. This may not happen for the next 5 years but it might happen for the next 3 years (two nights in high 40s will slow maturation to a crawl.) Also, some growers are struggling now to get peanuts dug and picked around frosts and wet weather. So you might lose essentially all of the value because of freeze damage (in your example this could mean about $1634/acre for timely planted and dug peanuts to whatever seg 2 peanuts are worth…this would be a disaster.) Also, we thought that CHAMPS, which matures about 15 days earlier than Perry (if they are planted on the same day and have good growing conditions and no stress) would close the gap and give us a better planting alternative. Based on these trials this is not the case. So, I would definitely discourage you from double cropping wheat and peanuts based on our planting date work. It seems too risky (inputs costs of peanuts are about 4.5 times that of soybeans and you have more flexibility with soybeans from a variety selection standpoint…and $10/bushel soybean is not so bad.)

I would invest the money spent on the mid season ammonium sulfate somewhere else (based on the fall we have had perhaps an extra digger or some temporary labor…timely digging is where we stand to make “extra money.”) If you get good nodulation the additional nitrogen is of no benefit when it comes to yield. Some starter nitrogen can help on really sandy soils so that the canopy closes a little more quickly, and this helps cool soil when the first pegs are trying to establish, but outside of that unique situation nitrogen later in the season is of little to no value. Hope this helps. Peanut yield response based on planting date, digging date when planted in early June, and variety selection when planted in early June.
Treatment Factor Yield (lb/acre)
Planting date (pooled over 2 varieties, 4 digging dates, and 3 years)
May 5 3869
May 22 3836
June 8 2992($363/acre less at $0.43/lb compared with the May 22 planting date)
Digging date influence when planted June 8 (pooled over 2 varieties, 4 planting dates, and 3 years)
September 8 1826
September 20 2748
October 7 3745
October 20 3649
Comparison of Perry (latest maturing variety) with CHAMPS (earliest maturing variety) when planted June 8 (pooled over 4 digging dates and 3 years)
CHAMPS planted May 5 3764
Perry planted May 5 3973
CHAMPS planted May 22 3773
Perry planted May 22 3898
CHAMPS planted June 8 3079
Perry planted June 8 2905 

Article first appeared as North Carolina Peanut Note (PNNC-2011-065)