Fungus Threatens Peanut Crop in Gaines County

By Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

SEMINOLE - "We're the largest peanut-producing county in Texas," Seminole Peanut Farmer, Chuck Rowland, said.

It's 600 acres of history. Chuck Rowland grew up on a Seminole farm growing peanuts.

"I was hoping we'd have some more sunshine and warm weather, because that's the only thing we can hope for at this time to finish out this crop," Rowland said.

But for the past seven years, a fungus has threatened the soil and last week's rain showers brought it back with a vengeance.

"That means that we lost yield," he said. "Because the pod sits under the ground, the disease is deteriorating them and eating them off and also, it will be quality in which we base the value of this crop on."

"Like this plant here that I pulled up," Manda Cattaneo, Extension Agent with Gaines County, said.  "You have to pull it up out of the ground, shake the dirt off, and you can look at the pods and see what percentage of the pods are infected with disease."

Seminole got over four inches of rain last Thursday, and the disease spread to the Rowland farm.

"This year it's enhanced because of the amount of rainfall we had and cool weather thereafter," Rowland said.

"Since 2000, the disease pressure has increased in the fields throughout Gaines County, so growers are having to deal with that more on a regular basis and in more of their fields," Cattaneo said.

Farmers say they won't know the extent of the damage until the harvest.

"That's going to be around the first of October, provided the disease doesn't progress more," Rowland said.

But they want West Texans to know, the diseased peanuts won't make it to store shelves.