Mature and Ready

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Most of you have wrapped up your pod blasting clinics or will do so by the end of next week. Keep in mind, for newer agents, we are giving the farmer very important information on when they should dig their peanuts but not all of the information they need for this decision. So many things play into this decision and optimum maturity is only one part of the equation. Some farmers have gotten so big that their digging and harvesting capacities struggle to keep up. What this means is that they cannot be as timely on digging because it may turn out that most of the peanuts reach optimum maturity at the same time and it is all but impossible to dig them all when they are mature. At Lewiston-Woodville we noticed that peanut planted May 2, 19 and 30 were only about 2 weeks apart in terms of optimum digging. This “compactness” is increased even more because we are planting one variety for the most part in the region and most peanuts get planted between May 5 and May 20. This year the maturity profile on plants is really tight, and while this is great for yields and grades if digging is on time, if we get poor weather more of the pods will shed in a shorter period of time.

What we can often do is help farmers get the order of fields in place and this can help increase yield and grades. Generally, a 4-row digger and 6-row digger can dig about 30 and 40 acres, respectively, in a 10-hour day driving 3 MPH for 10 hours. That is a long and successful day and will not happen every day. This is certainly where driver fatigue can set in and guidance systems can really help. Norman and I talked for few minutes yesterday and he had a grower with 1,700 acres of runners with most peanuts about to go from orange to brown or brown to black. Next week would be optimum for these peanuts but the question was should those peanuts be dug this week or this weekend (September 20) because of the amount of acres to cover. I think Norman experienced what a lot of us do a few times a year and this underscores “mature” versus “ready.” I kept coming back in the conversation to “if you can wait until next week to dig yields will be higher and grades better…don’t forget $14/acre/day on the front end.” But the farmer probably can’t wait because of the acres and possibly the digging capacity he/she may have. But to me, that has to be the farmer’s decision and not ours. I think telling the farmer when a certain field will reach optimum maturity is our role. They know the volume of their work, they know how dependable their help is and they know the stakes. In this case, the 1,700 acres, with a blend of 4/6 row equipment (35 acres/day) it will take just under 50 digging days at 10 hours/day to get everything dug. Certainly if the farmer has 2 diggers this goes down to 25 actual days and if the labor is in place to run all day and night it goes to 13 days. That’s if everything works well and conditions are perfect. If this grower has 4, 4-row diggers 1,700 acres can be dug in 12, 10-hour days under perfect conditions. With that capacity the grower can fine-tune digging dates to achieve the highest yields and best grades. So, if 1,200 of the 1,700 acres are dug more closely to optimum maturity and the farmer made $56/acre ($14/acre/day X 4 days) more because of timely digging this equates to $67,200/year. Without the digging capacity you could consider this a loss of $67,200 (economists would call this “opportunity loss.”) One more 4-row digger and the labor to run it can be paid for relatively easily if these numbers prove to be accurate.

All this to say for those growers that have gotten big they need to get the digging capacity in line so they can get the crop dug on time and quickly and increase their bottom line.

Article first appeared as North Carolina Peanut Note (PNNC-2014-141)