Specialized harvest equipment is required for peanuts. Planting and spraying peanuts “is pretty standard compared to other crops we’re used to in Arkansas. But for harvest you have to come in with a digger. It moves beneath the crop and digs them out while inverting them. Two rows are placed together in a windrow.

“The foliage is thrown down with the nuts up. The peanuts then need to dry for three to five days in the field.”

Harvesters can handle anywhere from two to 10 rows at a time. Most of the four- to six-row equipment is pulled behind a tractor. “It’s PTO-driven and basically thrashes the vines and pulls the pods off. The pods then drop through and are air-blown into a basket. The nuts need to stay in the shell — you don’t want them out of the hull.”

What about choosing peanut varieties?

“Right now, the company wants to buy high oleic peanuts. Folks may have heard of high oleic soybeans. This is the same premise — they want a nut high in linoleic acid. That produces better quality oil and extends shelf life.”

Monfort pointed to the plots behind him and said, “There are five varieties planted here, some of the better candidates. These also may have tomato spotted wilt virus resistance or resistance to other pathogens. I’m very interested in how these varieties handle tomato spotted wilt virus (vectored by thrips), which plagues other peanut-growing regions. It isn’t here yet but it is in the south part of the state where a lot of commercial tomato-growing operations are. Eventually, it will reach up here.”

Hopefully, Arkansas growers will see peanut yields of 4,000 pounds (2 tons) to the acre. However, “if he can get 1.5 tons to 2 tons, a grower will at least be making money. These new varieties can yield very well.”

One sure thing, said Monfort, “is we’re going to do this peanut research correctly. I’m very interested in seeing what we can do, here. We’ll be putting a pivot up to irrigate next year’s crop.

“Pivots are better for irrigating peanuts. Southern blight and other soil-borne diseases tend to run along the soil line. If you keep the soil too wet — like often happens with furrow irrigation — it can really open the crop up to disease.”

Peanut vines lay tightly on the ground. “If you run water through and can’t get it off quickly you’ll have more trouble with rhizoctonia stem rot and southern blight. They’ll start eating at the crown and limbs. It’s easier to limit those types of problems with a pivot by changing the speed of the system and your water output.”

The farmers growing peanuts around Newport are using both means of irrigation. “If you have good drainage, then the irrigation tactic isn’t nearly as important,” said Monfort.