When Neville and Maria Jones, of Euri Creek, just north of Bowen, won the irrigated section of the 1995-96 Peanut TOPCROP competition, they also proved the theory that the horticultural approach works in peanuts.
They grew their peanut crop with trickle irrigation, using heavy duty, reuseable irrigation tape, in exactly the same way as they grow their beans and sweet corn.
The Peanut Company of Australia's Atherton Tableland agronomist, Kevin Norman, says Australian growers could learn much from the 'horticultural' approach to growing taken by the peanut industry in Israel, a country with a climate similar to Australia's but where average peanut yields are considerably higher.
Mr Norman says growing peanuts horticulturally means taking a more intensive approach, possibly using higher, or more appropriate levels, of inputs like water, fertiliser and seed.
Win despite unseasonal rain
The Jones' win in the TOPCROP competition came in their third year of growing peanuts and despite major problems with rain at harvest time; more than 125 mm fell in April — most unseasonal for Bowen.
Mr Jones says the rain meant losing perhaps a third of the peanuts in pulling and threshing, cutting yield back from early estimates of 5.6 t/ha to around 4 t/ha.
However, there was compensation in the quality of the crop, with Florunner variety averaging $950/t across all loads.
Neville and Maria Jones had a number of reasons for joining the peanut industry three years ago, most notably:
- as a summer crop, peanuts rotated well with their winter-grown vegetables;
- their farm then became a year-round operation, making much more effective use of land, plant and labour; and
- peanuts offered a stable price, something not available in the vegetable industry.