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. “Pipelines to Peanut Profitability” 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. This final installment explores the latest research in determining peanut maturity.

Links to the other articles in this series can be found at the bottom.

Peanut producers can manage intensively throughout the season for high yields and grades, only to lose profits on the tail-end by not making making an accurate determination of maturity.

“There is too much guessing going on when it comes to determining peanut maturity, and the yield and economic impacts of a bad decision at that time of year are large,” says Marshall Lamb, research director for the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga.

“If we can get a better handle on quantifying maturity, we can really make some strides in improving how we determine maturity in peanuts.”

Researchers at the lab, says Lamb, are looking at the use of a digital force gauge to evaluate peg strength to help determine maturity. Data also is being correlated to digging losses and soil types.

“If you've got good peg strength on the black peanuts on your maturity board, you can wait a bit to dig,” Lamb says.

“We use a digital force gauge to map the entire peanut plant. We then take one pod and blast it, and what we’re finding is that — based on peg strength, plant health, and cultivar — we can leave peanuts in the ground longer. The longer they can stay, the higher quality they’re going to be in general.”

It’s a project that shows promise in conjunction with other tools available, he says.

“As a pod becomes more mature physiologically, is the peg strength holding up relative to the maturity or is degrading to the point to where we might lose that peanut during harvest? That’s one of the questions we’re attempting to answer,” says Lamb.

Growers can’t afford to lose their most mature peanuts because those are their best and highest grading peanuts, he says.