There’s at least one point of unanimous agreement on Georgia’s 2009 peanut crop: it’ll be a late one. Peanut harvest had just begun by the middle of September, as extremely wet conditions in late May resulted in approximately 40 percent of Georgia’s 460,000 acres being planted after May, and after the usual recommended planting dates, says John Beasley, University of Georgia Extension peanut specialist.

But harvest was finally in full swing during the first week in October, says Beasley. “Due to wet weather during the spring, very few peanuts were planted in late April and early May, but those that were planted are running about 10 days later than normal. Those peanuts planted in late May and early June are catching up rapidly. What it boils down to is that we planted over a 70-day range and now we’re harvesting over a 40-day range,” he says.

The last week of Oct. 1 marked the first full week of peanut harvesting throughout the state, says Beasley. “The weather conditions are ideal, and we’re seeing good yields and good grades. Many of the county agents and farmers I’ve spoken with are especially pleased with the good grades, particularly from some of the new cultivars that were planted this year,” he says.

There have been a few issues this year with new cultivars, including some reports of white mold, he adds. “But overall, they’ve performed well, and we’re still learning as we gain more experience planting these cultivars.

At this point, says Beasley, it’s difficult to tell if the final yield will equal the latest projection from the state’s agricultural statistics service — an ambitious 3,500 pounds per acre. “There’s just too much of October left to go, and a lot of acreage remains to be harvested. I weather conditions hold up throughout the month of October, we’ll be in good shape,” he says.

Most of the peanut cultivars planted in Georgia this year reach optimal maturity in 135 to 145 days, says Beasley. So a field planted on June 1 would reach optimal maturity between Oct. 13 and 23.

“If we have normal minimum temperatures in south Georgia during October – 61 degrees on Oct. 1 down to 51 degrees on Nov. 1, then peanut fields planted in s to mid June should have no problem reaching optimal yield and grade.”

Georgia growers saw wet conditions in late March and early April that delayed some land preparation. “It then turned dry from mid-April until mid-May. The last two weeks of May were very wet across the entire Georgia peanut belt, and there was very little if any planting that occurred. It turned very hot and dry in early to mid-June. We reached the upper 90s and lower 100s for maximum temperatures during that stretch. This triggered some outbreaks of lesser cornstalk borer.

“We had a break in the hot temperatures in late-June and then had normal maximum temperatures through July, August and early-September.”

Excellent growing conditions for peanuts unfortunately translates into excellent conditions for weeds and diseases, says Beasley, and Palmer amaranth pigweed was a particularly troublesome pest this year for Georgia growers.

Growers also have battled fall armyworms and corn earworms this year, he says, with some fields requiring as many as three insecticide applications to knock down the fall armyworm populations to below economic thresholds.

“The major disease this year has been white mold,” says Beasley. “Hot, dry conditions in June followed by warm, wet weather allowed this disease to explode in many fields.”

This year, for the first time since 1997, the predominant cultivar from an acreage-planted standpoint was not Georgia Green, he says. It looks as though most of Georgia’s peanut acreage in 2009 was planted in a mix of Georgia-06G, Florida-07 and Tifguard.

“Georgia Green is probably planted on 20 percent or less of the acreage. Acreage planted in seed production for the 2010 crop looks to be about 35 percent in Georgia-06G, followed by 15 to 20 percent in Florida-07 and Tifguard. Acreage planted in 2009 for seed production of Georgia Green for 2010 is about 5 to 7 percent.”

e-mail: phollis@farmpress.com