Organizers of the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award have reviewed production data from previous winners to arrive at a “Top 10 Keys to Peanut Profitability.” This list of successful production practices is being presented in descending order in Southeast Farm Press and on this website, with sponsorship provided by DuPont Crop Protection. The Peanut Profitability Awards, based on production efficiency in whole-farm situations, is entering its 13th year and is administered by Marshall Lamb, research director for the National Peanut Research Laboratory, and his staff.

As the countdown continues to the No. 1 Key to Peanut Profitability, disease control comes in at No. 4, including the control of soil-borne and foliar diseases and nematodes.

Great strides have been made in peanut disease control in recent years, especially through the development of genetically improved varieties. But as producers look ahead to the 2012 production season, white mold looms large as a serious disease threat.

White mold has become one of the most important, if the not the most important disease faced by Georgia peanut producers, according to Bob Kemarit, University of Georgia Extension plant pathologist.

“No matter what you call it — white mold, stem rot, Southern stem blight — the bottom line is that every grower has to fight white mold, to a greater or lesser degree.

“No grower will control white mold 100 percent, no matter what you do. In the best situation in a bad year, getting 60 to 70 percent control might be the best you can do, and that’s with your best fungicides and your best efforts,” says Kemerait.

White mold is an important disease, he adds, and resistant varieties are rare, although Georgia-07W is one good example.

“Fungicides add to production costs, but it’s a good investment,” says Kemerait.

“As tomato spotted wilt has diminished, our losses to white mold on a regional basis are much greater than to any other disease in peanuts. You can argue that controlling peanut leaf spot adds significant cost to a production program.

“But when you look at the yield loss associated with white mold, despite a fungicide program, regionally it’s much greater than for any other disease.”

Peanuts are a susceptible host to white mold. Also, hotter temperatures like those experienced by producers in the lower Southeast also encourage the development of the disease.