Peanut brothers find reasons to be cheerful

Wayne Weller

By Louise Ralph

Wayne Weller says he and his brothers are pretty average peanut growers in the South Burnett region. But a tour of their Kingaroy property quickly reveals these third generation growers run an efficient and innovative outfit, focused on sustainable farming methods and risk management.

The Weller brothers farm 809 hectares, with 607 under cultivation. They rotate maize and peanuts, prefer handchipping of weeds to herbicides, and run a few head of cattle as a hobby, which Wayne says "funds the tucker bills". Wayne points across a fallowed field with neat rows of bailed peanut hay.

"Funding the tucker bills": Wayne Weller at his on-farm drying facility. To avoid afl atoxin contamination, peanuts are dried to below 15 percent moisture content as quickly as possible after harvesting.

"This paddock will lie fallow until November or December when we"ll plant maize. If we get good rains in June, there may also be an opportunity to plant wheat and have it off by October."

The Weller brothers have also built some of their own equipment. "The machinery needed is one-crop specific and, being a relatively small industry, the market is limited, so occasionally we"ll develop equipment ourselves, or modify bought equipment," Wayne explains.

Peanuts, like most grains industries, is witnessing change. Where Wayne farms, three growers work the area that seven would have covered 10 years ago. Marginal peanut growing country is also going back to pasture, while the arrival of "lifestyle farmers" is putting pressure on real estate prices.

"But there is reason to be optimistic, simply because we can"t supply domestic demand for peanuts," he says. "The greatest challenge is to keep down costs, because the pressure of imports will always keep the lid on price. New, better yielding varieties and advances in technology will be the only things that keep our margins the same or better."

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