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According to southwest Georgia peanut grower Todd Powell, everyone in his area had good crop potential early in the year and then the drought hit. He goes on to say he has probably the best crop ever, but it came with a price in irrigation expenses, which must be added back into production costs.
In neighboring Webster County, Extension director Laura Griffeth says many of the dryland peanut yields in her county will be counted in hundreds of pounds rather than thousands of pounds. “In some spots, growers have had only four-tenths of an inch of rain in three months. We’re cautiously optimistic on some of our crop and hopefully have good insurance on the rest of it,” she says.
“The heat really has affected our crop this year,” says John Beasley, University of Georgia Extension specialist. “Temperatures of 95 to 100 degrees just knocked the bottom out of our fruit set. Very high temperatures reduce the plant’s ability to produce fruit, or the peanut pods, by causing pollen sterility. When a thermometer is reading 95 degrees in the shade, it’s much warmer down in the soil. When the air temperature reaches the upper 90s or 100 and above, it’s not uncommon for the temperature reflected from bare ground a few inches above the soil surface to reach in the 130s and 140s.”
How hot has it been? Beasley says maximum temperatures reached 95 degrees or higher during the 92-day period of June 1-Aug. 31 on 17 days at Tifton, 26 days at Attapulgus, and 24 days at Plains. This compares to six, 14 and six days at Tifton, Attapulgus and Plains, respectively, in 2009 when Georgia growers set a record-average yield of 3,510 pounds per acre.
USDA’s peanut yield estimate for Georgia from the month of September was 3,400 pounds per acre, a forecast many see as being overly optimistic.
“We don’t know where we’ll end up in terms of yield potential,” says Beasley. “The hardest hit areas in Georgia as far as lack of rainfall are in the southwest portion of the state bordering Alabama. Some of those farmers haven’t had rain in three to four weeks.”