Peanut crops do well in ‘08

Published 12:24 am Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Virginia peanut farmers are reaping the rewards of cooperative weather with higher crop yields and better harvests, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“This has turned out to be a good start to a good peanut season,” says VDACS Peanut Program Supervisor Jerry Gillespie, a 38-year veteran of the department. Experts are predicting that the number of acres harvested should be higher in 2008. This year, Virginia peanut producers are expected to harvest approximately 23,000 acres, which represents a 9.5 percent increase over the 21,000 acres harvested in 2007.

Bob Alphin, with Sunset View farm in Isle of Wight, said his crop yield was excellent this year, too.

Estimates from VDACS also call for a higher-than-expected yield of approximately 2,800 pounds per acre on average across the Commonwealth, which is an increase of almost 4 percent over the 2,700-pound yield per acre in 2007. The weather helped boost output.

“The rains came at the right time,” Alphin said, adding that he expects between a 5 percent and 10 percent yield increase this year.

Alphin said he expects to get around 5,000 pounds of peanuts off his 190-acre farm.

“You hardly ever hear of anything like that,” he said. “That’s exceptional.”

VDACS’ Gillespie says that a good harvest is only the beginning of a successful year for Virginia peanuts. How they grade is equally important, and for 2008, the grade looks good overall.

The responsibility for grading and inspecting Virginia peanuts belongs to the VDACS Peanut Inspection Program, which helped market approximately 95 million pounds of milled peanuts in 2006-2007.

Program staff inspects and grades harvested peanuts at 27 buying points in southeastern Virginia, looking at the meat content, size of pods, kernel size, moisture content, damaged kernels and foreign material.

Quality factors determined by these inspections are used to establish how much the grower is paid for the peanuts and whether the peanuts will be used for edible or non-food uses. After meeting the requirements for the grade specifications, the peanuts go through a final test to ensure that they meet specific requirements for human consumption.

In Virginia, peanuts are big business. In 2007, the Virginia peanut industry was ranked No. 19 among Virginia’s top 20 commodities in terms of cash receipts, which totaled $12,020,000.

It is also ranked No. 9 based on production among peanut-producing states. Peanut production in Virginia is concentrated in the southeastern part of the state, in Southampton, Suffolk, Surry, Sussex, Greensville, Isle of Wight counties and the city of Suffolk.