Growing Peanuts in Washington State for Biodiesel

John Davis

You probably think of the Deep South, such as Georgia and Alabama, when you think of peanuts, but a farmer and a researcher from Washington State Univesity are looking to grow goobers in the Pacific Northwest to make into biodiesel.

This article in the Seattle (WA) Post Intelligencer says Steve Price’s venture is picking up steam:

Price has been growing dry beans in the area about 30 miles north of Eastern Washington’s Tri-Cities since the 1980s. He planted about 25 acres of peanuts last year, just to see if he could grow them.

Some old-timers in the area also told him a handful of farmers had tried growing peanuts in the area during the 1960s.

“When I started this I thought my background in dry edible beans would be a plus,” Price said. “But I found out I don’t know anything about peanuts.”

Price ran into some problems, such as not having peanut harvesting equipment. In addition, dry bean processing plants didn’t want to handle the peanuts because of the allergy problems. But despite that, he had some success growing the legumes, getting 5,000 pounds an acre… when the national average is only 3,300.

Tim WatersPrice’s initiative impressed Tim Waters, a WSU extension educator based in Pasco. He and another professor for WSU’s crop and soil sciences program began working with Price and helping where they could.

This year, Price replanted some peanuts and Waters and a team at WSU planted some test fields of five different varieties at Columbia Basin College.

“We can do this and study the potential to see if this is something that is feasible for growers so they don’t have to take the risk,” Waters said.

This year’s crop looks even better than last year. And, if you remember my July 31st post, researchers back in Georgia are developing a type of peanut ideal for biodiesel. Hopefully, they’ll share their information with the peanut-biodiesel far off to the north.