Nutty numbers: yield per acre, peanut farms and peanut facts

Welcome to part two of "Peanuts: the numbers": nutty numbers! If you haven't read the first article yet, we advise you do: this way you can read along using the actual report provided by the Census of Agriculture. In this article we will provide you with lots of information regarding peanuts and numbers: all in a simplified way and easy enough for you to read along using the 2012 report.

Yield per acre using irrigation and without using irrigation

Now before we go to the next set of numbers it is necessary to understand what irrigation really is. Peanut plants mainly grow in hot climates; this means that there is little to no rainfall. However, the peanut plant still needs water to grow. Irrigation basically means applying water in an artificial manner to the soil and thus allowing the plant to grow. Farmers don't use regular watering cans for this, modern farms have entire underground irrigation systems with sprinklers that spray water. The irrigation systems are usually computer-controlled and can be fine-tuned so that the peanut plant gets exactly the amount of water it needs. Some farms don't use irrigation systems at all, they solely rely on rainfall, we call this dryland farming. In many cases irrigation helps the yield (the amount of peanuts that can eventually be harvested) per acre. But actually that is still a hypothesis, we will find our definitive answer in the numbers below. You can read along using table 36 on page 36 of the report.

Entire peanut plant irrigated
Number of farms: 1,239
Amount of acres: 304,922
Average yield per acre in pounds: 4,362.0

Part of peanut plant irrigated
Number of farms: 1,262
Amount of acres irrigated: 216,751
Amount of acres not irrigated: 265,710
Average yield per acre in pounds: 4,347.7

Peanut plant not irrigated
Number of farms: 4,060
Amount of acres: 834,248
Average yield per acre in pounds: 3,875.1

From the data above we can see that there are about 3000 more farms that do not irrigate their peanut plants in contrast to the 1239 that do irrigate their plants. We see that the yield per acre in pounds is a bit higher for farmers that do irrigate their plants. It looks like the hypothesis can be confirmed: in many cases irrigation helps the yield per acre. Irrigation does not only provide the plant with enough water to grow but is also used for frost protection, suppressing weed growth and to prevent soil consolidation.

Sizes of the peanut farms

For this string of data we are going to page 96 of the report, take a look at table 64 (continued). Here we can see what the sizes of the farms are that produce peanuts. Let's take a look:

Total amount of farms: 6,561 - this is the total amount of peanut farms used in the report. In each of the used data strings the total amount of farms is always 6561.

Farm size
1 to 9 acres: 66
10 to 49 acres: 225
50 to 69 acres: 149
70 to 99 acres: 201
100 to 139 acres: 205
140 to 179 acres: 189
180 to 219 acres: 189
220 to 259 acres: 142
260 to 499 acres: 817
500 to 999 acres: 1594
1000 to 1999 acres: 1559
2000 or more acres: 1225

What can we see from the above data?
Well, to be honest, this data is not THAT interesting. It merely categorizes all 6561 peanut farms according to their size. However, we can see that most of the peanut farms are above 500 acres, 4378 farms to be exact. This brings us to the topic of mass production. When you raise the total quantity, your expenses will be divided over that amount. Thus, if you have a larger quantity, your expenses per product will be lowered. This principle works in almost every industry: clothing, toys, food, supermarkets and also peanuts. A quick example: farmer A has 100 acres of land and grows peanuts on it. Farmer B has 500 acres of land and grows peanuts on it. Both farmers need machinery to harvest, wash and roast the peanuts, for both the machinery is equally expensive. Farmer B (with the larger amount of acres) will receive his break-even earlier because he has more acres to grow peanuts on.

Peanut facts

We will close this article with some quick peanut facts supported by numbers.

- The total amount of peanuts harvested in 2012 was 6,660,492,899 pounds.
- Georgia is peanut state #1. The total amount of peanuts harvested in Georgia was 3,236,937,533 pounds. This is almost half of the entire US harvest.
- In the report we can see that there is only one peanut farm located in the state of Maryland. This is also the case for Washington, Nevada and Arizona.
- Data of a total amount of 6561 peanut farms was used in the Census of Agriculture.
- Most of the operators on peanut farms are between the age of 55 and 64.

End of nutty numbers

That's it! You now know how to interpret data used in census reports. You have also learned a bit more about peanuts, peanut production and peanut farms. We will write the next Peanuts: the numbers in 2020, by then the Census of Agriculture has published their numbers from 2017. We are already excited! If you can't wait: for more data you can go to the website of the USDA or read our articles on where peanuts and where almonds grow.
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