PEANUT growers have their fingers crossed for an above-average harvest in coming weeks as timely growing-season rains throughout the Wide Bay-Burnett region have set up the potential for a high-yielding, top-quality crop.
Crops north of Kingaroy through to Biggenden are looking particularly good after an optimum start on mid-November rains, as are the irrigated crops around Bundaberg.
Conditions haven't been quite so favourable south of Kingaroy, but growers are still confident the crop will be a handy one.
In the Kumbia district, grower Julian Cross says his 120-hectare crop is on track for a promising harvest in a couple of months.
"The crop is set now and, because it is all dryland here, we just need rain to fill the crop out and grow some good quality peanuts," he said.
"It is all set up well. We don't need a lot of rain, just a couple of 30 to 40 millimetre falls."
The potential for above-average quality will be the key to Mr Cross receiving price premiums this year for the crop that has been contracted to PCA (the Peanut Company of Australia) in Kingaroy.
"It is not like a wheat or sorghum crop. (With wheat and sorghum) when there is a drought on there is premium money for anyone who can grow any. With peanuts it is the opposite," he said.
"When it is a dry, tough year you end up with poor quality peanuts and manufacturing grades which are down around $400/tonne whereas the good, edible grades are up around $1500/t.
"There is a big difference. With peanuts it is: the better the year, the better the quality, the better the cheque."
The area Mr Cross sowed to peanuts this season is down 40-50ha on a normal year because of the late start to the season around Kumbia.
Sixty-five millimetres of rain in the first week of December got the planting going and further falls stretched the planting out to the first week of January. "I decided that was late enough and didn't plant any more," he said.
Mr Cross grew three varieties this year - Fisher, Middleton and Redvale - to spread his production risk.
"Redvale is a shorter, 16 to 18-week variety. A short season variety comes in very handy in a dry finish. They mature a lot quicker," he said.
"The Middleton are a tough variety bred at the research station at Kingaroy. They are a good drought peanut. They can do a fair bit without much rain.
"The Fisher is an American variety imported from Virginia. They need a good season. They need to be a bit spoilt."