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PEANUT CULTURE

PEANUT CULTURE. Commercial production of peanuts began in Texas about 1906, when four or five carloads was grown, thrashed, and sold to a peanut oil, butter, and confectionery factory at Paris in Lamar County, the first such factory in the state. In 1907 about thirty carloads was produced. By 1908 production had reached 150 carloads; and in 1909 farmers harvested 48,000 acres for a yield of 26,400,000 pounds. Three peanut factories had been established by 1910. During this period of the industry Lamar, Fannin, Red River, and Jones counties were the largest producers. The yield varied from twenty-five to 100 an acre and sold for an average of seventy cents a bushel. In addition each acre produced 1½ tons of peanut hay that sold for about $12 a ton. The cost of seed in 1910 was about a dollar an acre. Between 1910 and 1914 there developed two types of peanut farmers: those who pulled the vine and baled it with the peanuts on the roots, thus producing a valuable hay; and those who plowed the crop, sending only the nuts to the factory. The net return of the peanut crop per acre exceeded that of cotton in 1914. Production in 1920 amounted to 125,280,000 pounds from 174,000 acres, valued at $7,517,000. The 1920–21 depression caused a serious decline in peanut production, as did the discovery that peanuts were poor hog feed. The peanut crop in 1925 totaled 32,825,000 pounds from 65,000 acres, valued at $1,116,000. By 1932 acreage had increased to 180,000 harvested acres and production to 99,000,000 pounds, but the value had decreased to $1,485,000. The Spanish peanut, which was grown almost exclusively, was sold in roasted form or went into the manufacture of candy or oils. By 1940 much former cotton land had been planted in peanuts, with the most concentrated production centered in Comanche County. Shelling and roasting plants were located throughout the state by the early 1940s. Tyler and Nacogdoches were the principal East Texas markets. Aside from the East Texas area, the principal peanut-producing areas in Texas in 1950 were the Western Cross Timbers, west and southwest of Fort Worth; an area south of San Antonio; and an area near Houston, including Fort Bend, Harris, and Waller counties.

The peanut plant requires a growing season of about five months without frost, but with moderate rainfall, an abundance of sunshine, and well-drained, sandy soils containing considerable organic matter. Of the several varieties of peanuts, the White Spanish or improved strains are practically the only ones grown in the state. Spantex is a new variety that has been developed for Texas from the Spanish peanut. Disease, insects, and cold or wet weather are the primary hazards of the peanut industry. Scientific methods of cultivation and harvesting have overcome the objection to the peanut as a destroyer of the soil, and the combine has generally replaced the stationary thresher in the main peanut-growing areas of the state. The vines have been discovered to make good livestock feed, and much peanut hay is baled for that purpose.

Texas ranked second among the states in acres planted in peanuts for the ten-year period 1938–1948, with an average of 645,200 harvested acres and 283,952,000 pounds. The 1949 production amounted to 333,450,000 pounds of peanuts from 513,000 acres. Peanut production in 1954 was centered in the county areas of Comanche-Eastland-Erath, Wilson-Karnes-Atascosa-Frio-Bexar, and Waller-Harris-Fort Bend, and in the East Texas blackland area. In that year 108,185,000 pounds of peanuts valued at more than $12 million was produced on 281,000 acres. Peanuts were grown on approximately 8,400 farms during the late 1950s, and twelve peanut oil mills were in operation in 1958. A 1959 survey indicated that Texas ranked third in the nation, producing 202,300,000 pounds of peanuts valued at more than $18.8 million on 289,000 acres of land. Irrigated acreage and the number of peanut oil mills increased in the early 1960s. A new variety of Spanish peanut was introduced in 1961, marking the first improvement in the United States derived from a controlled breeding program. Peanuts were second only to cotton as the most valuable oilseed crop in Texas by the mid-1960s. The state ranked fifth in peanuts harvested. More than 260,000 acres in approximately 130 counties was planted in 1964, bringing in 236,440,000 pounds valued at more than $25 million. Cash farm income in 1967 from peanuts was about $37 million. Irrigated peanut cultivation exceeded 70,000 acres out of 296,000 acres planted in 1968; the crop that year was 420,320,000 pounds, valued at $49,877,000. Peanut hay was an increasingly valuable by-product for peanut farmers. By 1972 peanuts were grown on more than 300,000 acres by about 12,500 growers in 117 counties, and the state ranked second nationally in peanut acreage. The ten leading counties were Comanche, Frio, Eastland, Atascosa, Wilson, Erath, Mason, Fannin, Houston, and Gaines. The 1972 peanut crop in Texas was 478,800,000 pounds, valued at $65,596,000.

Although the Spanish-type peanut still dominated the industry after 1973, other varieties, such as the florunner, began to be introduced with some success. In the early 1980s there was a small decline in peanut yield; Texas was no longer ranked second in the nation. In 1984, 215,000 harvested acres produced 365,500,000 pounds of peanuts valued at $93,568,000. In 1991 Texas was again ranked second in the production of peanuts in the United States; that year, peanuts were eighth in value among Texas crops. Half of the 300,000 acres of land used for growing peanuts was irrigated. The leading counties for peanut production in Texas were Gaines, Comanche, Atascosa, Haskell, and Eastland. In 1992, 677,600,000 pounds of peanuts with a value of $182,952,000 was harvested on 308,000 acres of land.

B. C. Langley

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

B. C. Langley, "PEANUT CULTURE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/afp01), accessed October 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.