The Peanut Pest Management Scout School, part of an on-going effort by Alabama Cooperative Extension System experts to provide cotton growers with a working knowledge of peanut production, will be held June 14 in Shorter.

The two-hour meeting, which will be held at the E.V. Smith Research Center's Agronomy Unit, will begin at 10 a.m. and conclude at 12 noon.

The school will include a tour of peanut field demonstrations, followed by presentations by several Extension peanut crop specialists.

Dallas Hartzog, an Extension peanut agronomist and Auburn University professor of agronomy and soils, will discuss peanut growth and development. Following Hartzog's remarks, Austin Hagan, an Extension plant pathologist and Auburn University alumni professor of entomology and plant pathology, will introduce growers to the basics of identifying peanut diseases.

Finally, Ron Weeks, an Extension entomologist and Auburn University associate professor of entomology and plant pathology, will discuss scouting techniques and identification of peanut insect pests.

The scout school essentially can be described as phase two of an on-going effort to acquaint cotton growers with the ABC's of peanut production, building on the efforts of an introductory meeting conducted earlier this year, according to Jeff Clary, an agronomy agent on contract with Extension.

Interest in peanut production among east-central Alabama cotton growers has spiked in recent years, thanks to a number of factors, according to school organizers.

“First of all, peanuts, at between $375 and $400 a ton, look very profitable to farmers,” Clary says.

Other major factors have been root-knot and reniform nematodes, two soilborne pests that have seriously affected cotton yields in many parts of the state, including east-central Alabama.

Peanuts, which, unlike cotton, are not a host crop for nematodes, have become increasingly attractive to growers partly for this reason.

Aside from that, peanuts do extremely well as a crop planted behind cotton — particularly the case in the sandy soils of east-central Alabama, where corn does not work so well with cotton as a rotational crop, according to Leonard Kuykendall, a regional Extension agent.

Kuykendall also credits peanuts with helping some producers spread their risks in an increasingly volatile economic market. For instance, peanut growers can endure an early summer drought and still make a crop, providing rain comes late in the summer — not the case with cotton.

Nevertheless, challenges remain. Peanuts require a lot more spraying to control diseases — less of a concern with cotton following the successful introduction of boll weevil eradication early in the last decade.

Differences in harvest times between cotton and peanuts also pose a challenge, Kuykendall says — one factor that has dissuaded some cotton producers from incorporating peanuts into their operations.

Both Kuykendall and Clary are confident the scout school will address many of these concerns.

For more information, contact Extension's Autauga County Office at 1-334-361-7273 or the Lee County Office at 1-334-749-3353.