Georgia’s 2013 peanut harvest got under way the second week in September, a week or so later than usual.

But full throttle will hit later this month. It’s been a tricky, wet year for growers in the state and digging times will be tricky, too.

Digging peanuts at the right time ensures a grower gets the most out of yield potential and quality, John Beasley told farmers, consultants and other attendees at the annual University of Georgia Cotton and Peanut Field Day Sept. 11 in Tifton, Ga.

“Do not assume that any of the 140-145 day maturity cultivars will be ready to dig in 140-145 days. Environmental conditions can cause fields to be ready sooner or later than what is expected. The absolute worst decision a grower can make is to dig based on calendar days and not check the maturity with the Hull-Scrape Maturity Profile chart,” said Beasley, the UGA Extension peanut agronomist.

Local Extension agents conduct hull-scrape profiles and can help growers use this method. Brian Tankersley, UGA Extension director in Tift County in south-central Georgia, says peanuts in his county are running a bit behind the normal average, several days. But he expects by the third and fourth week of September a majority of the peanuts in the county will be dug.

Unusually heavy rains and cloudy weather June through August in that region affected peanut growth. But the weather in the region has cooperated in the last two weeks with plenty of sunshine.

Though there are a lot good looking peanut plants in fields, growers are ready to see what yields hold underground in some fields that were under water or had delayed fungicide applications due to wet weather.

Don’t dig before it’s time

Research by scientists with the National Peanut Research Lab show digging three weeks too early can result in a 30 percent reduction in yield potential.

The Peanut FARM, or Field Agronomic Resource Manager, helps calculates adjusted growing degree days, referred to as aGDD, for the season. Research by the USDA-ARS National Peanut Research Lab determined that peanut maturity was a factor of heat unit accumulation and water.

Much like the DD-60s on cotton, this model works based on daily average temperature minus a base temperature, or 56 in the case of peanuts compared to 60 in cotton, plus the impact of water.

The target is 2,500 aGDDs for peanuts. It’s not too late to use this tool and you can find it here.

Peanut harvest tips for 2013

Though most growers know these tips, Beasley stressed to keep fresh on growers' minds as harvest gets under way:

• Be sure and clean out old debris from peanut combines and trailers, including corn, wheat or old peanuts from previous harvests. This old debris could be a source of Aspergillus flavus mold.

• Have sharp blades on peanut digger-shaker-inverters. Replace worn out blades.

• If you have any field that is two weeks or longer from harvest and it has been two weeks since the last fungicide application, make another application to protect foliage until harvest.

• Level off the top of the peanuts in a drying trailer. Too often producers will have a peak, or mound, of peanuts in the middle of the trailer trying to get more peanuts on the trailer. This results in uneven drying, or curing. The peanuts in the peak will have a higher moisture content than those down along the sides.

• Do not dig too far in advance that would leave acreage susceptible to weather changes before they can be combined.