Environment Celebration Institute

Charlie’s Peanut Farm

Charlie’s Peanut Farm

Charlie Weibe has a peanut farm in Texas where he grows Spanish Peanuts and sells them for the oil content. After planting peanuts for 3 years by the 4th year Pithium and Rhizoctonia appear and peanut growers usually switch to Cotton for the next 3-4 years before planting peanuts again. Then the peanut farmers can usually only plant for one more year before they have to switch to growing cotton again for another 3-4 years, and this continues.

Charlie has two 90 acre planting circles that he uses for peanuts. One year he plants one circle in wheat or clover and the next year he plants that circle in peanuts. This is his way of trying to avoid the disease challenges that peanut farmers have in the 4th consecutive year of planting peanuts exclusively.

Charlie has been growing organically since 2013. In 2016 he applied 5 Gallons of Compost tea per acre in April of 2016. He applied as a soil drench when he was building his beds. He used a 300 gallon water tank with a 1/4 inch hose. Charlie had taken Dr. Ingham’s online classes and knew how to use a microscope for his assessments. After the tea application he looked at the soil through his microscope in a couple of weeks and determined that the soil only had bacteria with some nematodes, and very few of the other organisms (fungi, protozoa) needed. He had only been planning that one application, but because he was able to assess the biology in the soil after the tea application he knew he needed to make another application.

So in May when it was time to plant the peanuts he applied 5 gallons more of compost tea and soaked his seeds in mycorrhizae also. He also used a rhizobium that was specifically determined appropriate for his peanut crop. Eight days after the planting and applications Charlie got out his microscope to determine the biological health of his soil. He checked for the organisms around the baby roots and found good amounts of organisms – bacteria, fungi, protozoa were in adequate quantities, there were some testate amoebae, and some nematodes, mainly bacterial feeders, without many predatory nematodes.

By June 23rd, 2016 Charlie knew he had a much better crop with the biology through compost tea that he added than by that time in 2015 the last year when he had not added any biology. Charlie was excited. And by July 21st, 2016 the the photos below show the difference between the same time (July 23, 2015) and the current crop in 2016 (July 21, 2016).

But 2 weeks before harvest on October 1st, 2016 they had 18 inches of rain. The surrounding fields lost 50% of their harvest, while Charlie only had a 3-4% loss where there were low spots and standing water. The Compost Tea applications had provided protection. So Charlie had an early harvest at day 137 because of the rain (usually peanuts are harvested between 135-140 days).

Charlie saw a 20% increase in yield from 2015 to 2016. He harvested 225 tons in 2015 and 270 tons in 2016. This was a $54,000 increase is profit from one year to the next. Charlie was very happy. Charlie gets $1200 per ton for his peanuts because he is growing organically. Conventional peanut farmers only get approximately $400-$450 a ton. So growing organically is really important to peanut farmers. Charlie believes that by adding biology he will be able to not fall into the disease problems that other peanut farmers inevitably face.