Environmental Footprint of Peanut Production

Close up a peanuts pile in harvest season
** Note: Shallow depth of field

Title: Historical Analysis of the Environmental Footprint of Peanut Production in the United States from 1980 to 2014
Journal: Peanut Science
Authors: James Allen McCartyStewart Ramsey, and Heather N. Sandefur
Keywords: Peanut, environmental footprint, sustainability, greenhouse gas


The last half century has seen a significant shift in agricultural practices, affecting productivity, resource use, and ultimately, environmental impacts. These increases have been the result of several developments, including increases in irrigation, the expanded application of fertilizers and pesticides, improved plant genetics, and the development of mechanized operations. Changes in production practices are highlighted here for peanut crops for the years 1980 to 2014. This study uses a resource efficiency methodology from cradle-to-farm gate to examine land use, energy efficiency, soil erosion (water and wind), irrigation water usage, and environmental/greenhouse gas emissions. During the historical period, yields increased from under 2000 kg/ha in the Southwest and an average of 3000 kg/ha in the Southeast and Virginia-Carolina regions to over 4000 kg/ha across all regions. Most of this increase occurred after the year 2000. Overall trends of nitrogen fertilizer applications per planted hectare were increasing; however, chemical protections, fuel use and electricity associated with cultivation, harvest, and drying declined. Energy utilization per hectare and kg of peanut showed steady declines over the last 40 years, particularly in the Southeast and Virginia-Carolina production regions. Results indicated that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been on the decline across all production regions, from greater than 1 kg CO2e/kg peanut in the early 1980s to less than 0.6 kg CO2e/kg peanuts in 2013, a 40% decrease in GHG production.

About the Author:


Heather Sandefur is one of the founding principals of Paradigm Sustainability.  You can find out more about Paradigm on our website.