Growers: Peanut harvest slightly above average

PNT Staff Photo: Clarence Plank Mark Brewer of Portales rakes peanuts into a grate, which are carried to a shifter that takes out rock, vines and leaves on Saturday at Sunland, Inc.

By Argen Duncan: Freedom New Mexico

With the harvest about halfway there, this year’s peanut crop is good to average, according to people in the know.

The harvest began in September and most peanuts are expected to be in before Thanksgiving.

“I’ve seen worse, I’ve seen better,” Leonard Stanton, plant manager for Portales Select Peanut Co., said.

Stanton said the quality of peanuts his company is getting from eastern New Mexico and western Texas is average or better, while the amounts the harvest yielded are average but less than he expected.

Sunland Inc. CEO Jimmie Shearer was more enthusiastic about his company’s peanuts, which came from western Texas.

“The quality’s been really good,” he said.

Shearer said nuts have bright hulls and a high grade. He also said the amount of peanuts harvested was good.

“It’s not an all-time record, but it’s above-average yields,” he said.

If the peanut fields had received rain in early August, the yield might have set a record, Shearer continued.

Although Roosevelt County peanut farmer Dee Brown said he was hearing reports of very good yield and quality of peanuts, his crop suffered from hail this year.

“It hailed my peanuts back into the ground in the latter part of July,” said Brown, also a vice president on the Sunland board of the directors.

Brown only had 60 days to grow peanuts again, instead of the usual 150-day growing season, he said.

Now, the peanut plants have been dug, uprooted and turned upside down to expose the nuts, but remain in the field.

Because of last Tuesday’s rain — the first rain Brown’s farm had all year — the peanut hulls are stained, which decreases the price he gets, Brown said.

Brown must wait until later this week to thrash the plants and separate out the nuts.

Stanton said worries about peanuts this time of year revolve around rain discoloring hulls and hard frost, which can make the peanuts bitter.

Shearer said frost can make the peanuts hard to get out of the ground.

Once they’re dug, the nuts need to release from the hull so the layer of air between them and the hull can protect them from the frost.

If the frost hits before the nuts and hulls separate, Shearer said, the nuts are not edible and can only be sold for cooking oil.