The 2012 peanut production season was literally one for the record books, with growers throughout the U.S. making record-high yields and production. Having accomplished such a feat, many in the industry are asking, “What’s next?” For the answer to this question, it’s important to take a look at what is in the peanut research pipeline — those problems, issues and initiatives currently being addressed that will lead to even more efficient and profitable peanut production. The “Pipelines to Peanut Profitability” series takes an in-depth look at these areas of research, what they could mean to growers, and when producers can expect to see practical, on-farm applications of this research.

 

Last year was the first time in history the Southeast peanut-producing region averaged two tons per acre — an indication diseases were kept under control, but an old disease nemesis came on strong late in the year to take some of the luster off the record-breaking crop.

The old yield-robbing foe that has popped up with too much regularity from Georgia to Mississippi over the past three years is white mold.

Caused by the fungi Sclerotium rolfsii, white mold, or Southern stem rot, as it is often called, came on late in the season and kept statewide yields across the belt from setting the record yield bar even higher.

Some contend white mold never really went away and has been a contributing factor in keeping peanut yields in the 3,000 pound per acre range for several decades.

The trend in peanut yields is going up, but not always on a predictable schedule.

Back in 1967, peanut researchers and growers alike reveled in the country’s first 2,000 pound average yield peanut crop. Just as they are doing now, growers back then were clamoring for the next frontier in peanut yields.

Improvements in weed management technology, new highly efficacious, easy-to-use fungicides and a renewed interest in peanut research quickly pushed that frontier to a new level.

Within seven years the average peanut yield in Georgia, perennially the country’s top peanut producing state, reached 3,000 pounds per acre.

Again, growers clamored for more.

Changes in the politics of peanuts, changing weather patterns, and some contend just plain bad luck kept peanut yields in the 3,000-4,000 pound per acre range for 39 years, with growers finally making it to the 4,000 pound average last year.

University of Georgia Plant Pathologist and UGA Peanut Team member Tim Brenneman, says the next yield frontier may come much quicker, pushed by improved varieties with better disease resistance and powered by growers willing to find ways to best apply the new technologies that are abundant.

“I remember three years ago, standing in a peanut field with a cooperating grower and how excited I was to take pictures of the first three-ton per acre peanuts I’d ever helped grow.