Farmers aren’t known for bragging, but Georgia peanut producers might be forgiven this year for gloating just a bit over what is shaping up to be a record-breaking crop.

With average yield estimates climbing into the two-ton range, growers were heading into the early harvest period feeling confident about their prospects.

“We’ve picked about 70 acres, and yields are about 5,000 pounds per acre,” said southwest Georgia producer Hal Israel during the state’s peanut tour held in late September. “That’s where we want to be — anything over that will be good.”

Israel, who farms with his brothers and father in southwest Georgia’s Sumter County, grows about 650 acres of peanuts along with cotton, corn and snap beans. “We had a hot, dry summer, but rain has been good lately. We’re 100 percent irrigated,” he says.

Israel grows improved varieties such as GA-06G, GA-07W and Tifguard, with most of his crop going into seed development.

Israel’s County Extension Agent, Bill Starr, says his growers planted about 10,000 acres of peanuts this year, and the early yield estimate was 3,800 pounds per acre. Starr says approximately 75 percent of Sumter County peanut acreage is irrigated, and growers have battled troublesome pests this year such as white mold and herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth pigweed.

(For additional information on the Georgia Peanut Tour, see Georgia peanut growers could see record yields this year).

While drought conditions have eased somewhat in southwest Georgia this year, growers who planted both irrigated and dryland peanuts were seeing a wide variation in yields between the two crops.

Neil Lee, who farms with his father and brothers in southwest Georgia’s Lee and Terrell counties, says their dryland peanuts aren’t very promising this year, but the irrigated crop is a different story.

All acreage in GA-06G

All of his acreage was planted in the GA-06G variety. “We already harvested about 150 acres of dryland peanuts, but we struggled with drought on those,” he said.

On the first day of the Georgia peanut Tour, Neil and his father Ronnie were “fluffing” a field of irrigated peanuts that already had been dug, but had been rained upon. “We do this after a rain to lift peanut vines and let air get in there to dry the peanuts that are on the ground. It also helps to prevent vines from sticking to the ground, making them easier to pick,” he says.

In addition to about 1,200 acres of peanuts, the Lee family also grows corn, cotton and wheat, keeping a four to five-year rotation for their peanuts.

Lee County Extension Agent Doug Collins agrees with others that the peanut crop looks very good this season. Seventy-percent of the county’s 18,985 peanut acres are irrigated, and he estimates a final yield of close to two tons per acre.

Collins says peanuts were planted from very late March into June. Rainfall amounts throughout the county have been very variable, he adds, and herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth pigweed and sicklepod have been the most troublesome weed pests.

In adjacent Terrell County, Extension Agent David Wagner says peanut acreage increased significantly this year, with more than 16,000 acres planted. Almost 60 percent of the peanuts are irrigated, so a little less than half of the peanut crop suffered because of drought, he said. Dry weather also brought spider mites which defoliated many dryland fields early, causing a loss of pods and poor grades.

Terrell County did receive much more rain this year than in 2011, says Wagner, but there were many days of cloudy skies, high humidity and no rainfall. These conditions contributed to an increase in disease pressure and more costs for growers, he says.

If the county’s crop can be harvested with no major losses due to weather or plant disease, Wagner is hopeful that his growers will produce more than 26,000 tons of peanuts.

In nearby Mitchell County, Extension Agent Max DeMott says his growers planted about 32,098 acres of peanuts this year, with 77 percent of the crop being irrigated. He says Mitchell County usually averages about 4,000 to 4,500 pounds of peanuts per acre, but he expects this year to be much higher.

Some dryland fields have already been harvested at 4,500 pounds per acre, says DeMott, and while insects and diseases have been a problem this year, he predicts an excellent crop overall.

phollis@farmpress.com