Economic Loss Calculation

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I had some questions from several news outlets today about the impact of weather during the past two weeks on the peanut crop in North Carolina. Recall that late last week I sent out a Peanut Note estimating that yields most likely would be lowered to 3500 pounds per acre for the V-C region. This continues to be a good estimate in my opinion but depends almost exclusively on the rest of this week and next week. In the perfect world if we receive no more rain until late October we can make great strides. If we get more rain later this week or early next week resulting in delays in digging until mid to late October, our yields will decrease dramatically. Under that scenario we could lose 35 to 45% of the peanut crop. We are not there right now but we are on the edge.

We often think of a “million dollar rain” at times during the summer. We need a “million dollar dry spell” during the next two weeks. Many of the peanuts were reaching optimum maturity during the last week of September. If you notice many digging date curves (see below) there is about a two-week interval where peanuts have reached maximum yield and will maintain that maximum yield. After that period of time peanut yield will decrease rather quickly as pods begin to shed from the plant. Right now we are at the tail end of what I would call the grace period on many of those curves. Rather soon peanuts will begin shedding at a rapid rate. If we can get in fields early next week and dig under good conditions we will avoid what I would call a catastrophe.

I am hopeful that the surprises from Bailey (increasing yields after optimum maturity based on the profile board) will be the case. The other challenge is those peanuts on top of the ground. Many of them will be discolored but as long as the pods stay on the vines they will be harvested, although some vine deterioration is expected, resulting in pod shed. Moving the delicate vines with a lifter will add to that loss. But lifting is needed to get vines out of the wet soil and remove some soil from the tap root.

I decided to prepare a table that might help if you get questions about harvest loss and subsequent income loss. Your guess may be better than mine but I hope these numbers are helpful. I picked a loss of 600 pounds per acre (16% of 3700 pounds per acre as this was my estimate for the entire V-C region before the wet weather set in.) I still think this is high and I hope our losses are closer to 300 pounds per acre. But farmers are so big now with so many acres it is hard to get across all of the acres even with good weather. We will also begin dealing with frost potential and that really does complicate digging.

Article first appeared as North Carolina Peanut Note (PNNC-2015-145)