Some crops are physiologically more sensitive to drought stress, she says. Peanuts have a low to medium sensitivity to drought, while corn has a medium to high sensitivity.

“Overall, we know crops are more sensitive to drought during the reproductive stage. And when we look at that, it’s directly related to the water-use curve. The most sensitive stages to yield loss will be during the reproductive stages.”

Peanuts is an indeterminate crop, which means it’ll continue flowering and putting on pods, says Rowland.

“When drought occurs, the peanut will do a couple of different things. In the early stages, up to about 45 days after planting into early bloom, it has strategies to respond to drought stress, and it actually becomes stronger and more tolerant to drought stress during mid-season, when it could be more susceptible.

“During reproductive stages, 45 to 100 days after planting, when it begins to mature and fill the seed, it is highly susceptible to drought stress. It has the ability to actually stop filling pods rather than shedding them. It has the ability to survive, but you could end up with a split crop with differing maturity levels, and that’s not optimal.”

There are several ways for farmers to conserve water and make a crop more tolerant to drought, says Rowland.

“We know there are certain stages — especially early season in the vegetative stage — when we can prepare the crop to be stronger and more tolerant to drought later on in the season. We call that primed acclimation. Also, through Regulated Deficit Irrigation (RDI), we can make the crop stronger. You expose the crop to a temperature stress, and through its development, it will be more tolerant to the temperature to which it was exposed.”

Irrigation scheduling tools also are available that will help growers improve their water-use efficiency significantly, she says.

“These scheduling tools also can provide a means of record-keeping for growers who irrigate. And as we get closer and closer to water restrictions, growers will be required to have very detailed records.”

One of these programs is PeanutFARM from the University of Florida. This is actually two tools, says Rowland, one being a harvest recommendation two and the other being an irrigation scheduling tool.

PeanutFARM is a group of tools aimed at helping growers manage peanut development and maturity by tracking adjusted growing degree days (aGDD). aGDD’s use upper and lower daily air temperatures, plus the amount of water the crop receives from rainfall and irrigation, to predict the development of the crop.

In addition to tracking peanut maturity, aGDD’s are used by PeanutFARM to help schedule irrigation through estimating crop canopy cover and daily water use.