Peanut yields up

Argen Duncan: Portales News-Tribune Brian Clark Jr. waits for a trailer to fill with peanuts Wednesday at Portales Select Peanut Company Inc. The machine separates dirt and debris from the nuts, which are then sent to be dried or, in this case, graded.

Argen Duncan

The peanut harvest this year has brought in higher-than-normal yields and good-quality nuts, farmers and processors are saying.

The recent lack of rain has also put the harvest on track to finish early.

Roosevelt County farmer Craig Breshears estimated he was harvesting 10 percent to 15 percent more peanuts this year. He said the abundant moisture earlier this year and heat in August and September caused the higher yields.

During the summer, Portales-area farmer Richard Robbins said, farmers thought they would have some of the biggest yields ever.

“But as it progressed along, it didn’t turn out that way, but it is a good crop,” he said.

Sunland Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jimmie Shearer said if the area had received rain at the end of August and a little cooler weather, yields could have set an all-time record.

The moisture and heat also help the grade, or quality, of the peanuts.

“The quality of the peanuts this year is well above average,” Shearer said.

Sunland processes Valencia peanuts from Roosevelt County and west Texas.

Portales Select Peanut Company Inc. Operations Manager Josh Wilson said the yields and grades were good for the Virginia, organic and commercial Valencia and organic Spanish peanuts his company was getting from Roosevelt County and west Texas.

“We’re very pleased,” he said.

Wilson said the company hadn’t totaled amounts yet, but he expected the harvest to be better than past years.

Robbins said he hoped to have his peanuts out of the fields before it rained. Peanuts must be dried to 10.5 percent moisture before they are stored.

“We’ve been having perfect weather for harvest,” Shearer said.

If the rainless weather continues, he said, the harvest could finish by the first of November. The peanut harvest usually ends in the middle or at the end of November.

This year also saw the harvest start about 10 days early, around Sept. 5.

Breshears said he had a small problem getting the ground wet enough to dig the peanuts because of the dry September.

“We’ve had to water and water and water to get them wet enough to dig,” he said.

Some of the peanuts Robbins grew this year sprouted before harvest, meaning a decrease in yields, but he said it wasn’t a widespread problem. Robbins has seen peanuts sprout before harvest three times in his 40 years of farming peanuts.

The sprouting peanuts were too mature.

“We’re attributing that to the heat,” he said, explaining that peanuts sprout when the soil gets warm.

Soil temperatures were 20 degrees above normal recently, Robbins said.