What is in this article?:
- Bud Bowers: Peanut Profitability Award
- Herbicide-resistant weeds
Bud Bowers' peanuts are grown as part of three entities. He and son Corrin have one farming operation; he also farms on his own; and he farms with long-time friend and neighbor, Mickey Ginn. Combined, Bud plants about 600 acres of peanuts annually.
CORRIN F. BOWERS JR., known to one and all as Bud, is the 2012 Peanut Profitability winner for the Virginia-Carolina peanut-producing belt. He grows about 600 acres of peanuts and 1,200 acres of cotton on his farm, located about 100 miles west of Charleston, S.C.
“We’re in an area where herbicide-resistant weeds are a concern,” Bud says. “We feel we have to use preplant herbicides, which need water for activation. We couldn’t afford to plant our cotton into dry soil, unless it was on irrigated land. The delay on cotton got us backed up on planting peanuts, making the whole planting season one of the most stressful in my career.”
Bud’s planting woes were compounded by the death of long-time employee and expert peanut planter/bedder Seres (Earl) Johnson.
“Earl was a really good employee, but I didn’t realize just how much I missed him until we got backed up this spring — trying to get cotton and peanuts planted in dry weather was a mess.”
Irrigation was a salvation at planting time. He has a sophisticated system of soil monitors that go back to his early days of growing irrigated cotton. The monitors can be accessed remotely by radio, telling him when to water. From a computer in his office, he can turn pivots on and off and determine whether they are running.
Over the years, irrigating peanuts has been a virtual guarantee of producing two tons or more per acre. In a recent year, his dryland peanut yields dipped to about 1,400 pounds per acre. “Typically, we average about 4,000 pounds with irrigation and 3,000 pounds per acre on dryland peanuts,” he says.
Farming with his son, Corrin, has been another blessing that has made his operation much more high tech-oriented, as well as more efficient and profitable, Bud says.
Bud’s University of South Carolina degree is in business and Corrin’s is in engineering — a combination of expertise, numbers, and technology that has worked out well, they say.
“I grew up working on the farm, and I always loved being outside and working with equipment,” Corrin says. “When I finished my engineering degree, Dad told me I could do anything I wanted professionally, but he wanted me to have the experience of working away from the farm before making a commitment to farming.
“During school, I did co-op work with Gulf Stream AeroSpace and worked with them when I finished college. But, I knew in that job I’d sit behind a computer the rest of my life. Then, I went to work with Monsanto’s Deltapine division in Mississippi. But that just wasn’t what I wanted to do.
“This is my third year of working full time in agriculture, and Dad has made it possible for me to have the best in technology to use on the farm,” Corrin says.
The blend of new technology from Corrin and Bud’s hard-earned knowledge from growing 10 peanut crops seem to be a perfect combination of new technology and tried-and-proven experience.
Bud, who is one of two South Carolina peanut growers appointed to the National Peanut Board, has been a sounding board for a number of South Carolina growers who’ve entered the peanut business over the past decade.
He says he learned some hard lessons about inoculants, experience that he is quick to share with prospective growers. “Peanuts are a legume, and they fix their own nitrogen — but not without some help,” he says.
“I tell anyone interested in getting into peanuts — and most of them are planting on land that has never been in peanuts — to be sure they apply an adequate amount of inoculant to the soil. A new grower needs to understand that they have to have an adequate amount of inoculant and farm their own nitrogen, because they surely won’t be able to afford to apply nitrogen to a peanut crop,”
Typically, Bud applies 10-12 gallons per acre of a bacteria-containing liquid to help peanut plants fix nitrogen in the soil. On new land, he says, he double-treats to be sure he gets adequate inoculation.
“On older land that’s been in peanuts before, you can cut back on the innoculant,” he says, “but we usually go about 1.5 times the recommended rate on new land.”
This year, he is planting about a third of his peanut crop, or 200 acres, on land that has never been in the crop.
“Getting that land properly inoculated is critical, and being backed up at planting time has made it really difficult,” he says.
The other key point he shares with new growers is to get the right digging equipment — and “don’t even think about digging peanuts without a GPS guidance system. In modern peanut production, I just don’t think you can dig peanuts profitably without GPS.”