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As peanut growers in the Virginia-Carolina production belt move toward digging time there is a lot of uncertainty as to the amount of damage done to their crops by record summer heat and scattered cases of extreme drought.
“High temperatures may have affected flowering and pollen survival, and in a number of instances crop development may have been delayed. While this certainly seems to be a less than optimistic view of the crop, rainfall in the coming weeks, combined with good fall weather, could go a long way in bringing in good yields and quality,” Jordan says.
As to whether the 2010 peanut crop will be early or late in North Carolina, Jordan says, “We all know that delaying digging until optimum maturity, especially if the crop has developed slowly over the season, can move digging operations into October. Although October is often one of the driest months of the year, cooler temperatures also make drying conditions less favorable if we happen to have excessive or frequent rainfall.
Early digging is completely understandable because so much investment has already been poured into the crop. And, weather conditions, especially wet weather, can prevent timely digging and can result in substantial pod shed and subsequent yield loss.
However, in some cases, like with the Gregory variety of peanuts planted in early to mid-May, digging one week earlier than optimum reduced yield by 12 percent.
“In the fall, we generally tell growers when we think the peanuts will be at optimum maturity and we don’t tell them when to dig peanuts. If pressed, I’ll end up saying, if they were my peanuts I’d probably dig them by a certain date.
We can estimate pod maturity, but we can’t estimate stress and anxiety when the crop is still in the field and so much has been invested in that crop. One thing we can do is keep the vines protected from disease well into the fall. When the vines are healthy we have a lot more flexibility in deciding when to dig.” Jordan says.