Peanut harvest has begun for some growers in South Carolina, with others trying to figure out when to start digging.

Based on several maturity clinics held this week, several April and May (1st week) planted fields (Virginia-type peanuts) are ready to dig or have already been dug and harvested.

The bad thing is not all April and early-May planted fields are ready. The cool wet weather early in the growing season has altered the typical timeline for maturity for many of the fields in the state.

Below are some of the results from the maturity clinics conducted this past week:

• Most of the late-April planted Bailey fields are maturing out around 140 DAP;

• Some early-May planted Baileys with only a tap root crop were mature enough to dig at 120 DAP;

• Normally developing (root + limb crop), early May planted Bailey are maturing out at around 130-135 DAP;

• Most normally developing mid-May planted medium maturity runners are projected to be mature somewhere in the 140 DAP window, but other samples closer to that date are needed before a final decision is made;

• Days after planting can be important in deciding maturity, but pod samples should always be used to confirm maturity levels of each field. For instance, if medium maturity Virginia peanuts are < 130 days or older than 140 days, then make sure there is reason to dig early or later than normal. The same goes for medium maturity runners — if it's less than 140 days or over 150 days make sure there is a reason to dig or wait.

Typically, a field needs to have at least 70 percent of its pods with color to make adequate weight and grade for Virginias and at least 75 percent in runners.

Wet conditions this year have caused a lot of in-field maturity variability, which is making digging decisions more difficult.  

Taking multiple samples from the predominant soil type in a field will give the best information for that field. Yield and grades will likely take a hit because of this variation, but digging must be based on the maturity level of the largest areas of a field.

Two digging dates

In cases where a significant portion of a field is different, maybe two digging dates will be an option if logistically possible. Digging around random lower areas in other fields where peanuts got a late start due to flooding would probably be ideal, but probably not practical. If the peanuts in these areas look really bad after inversion consider combining around them.  

Remember the Orange, Brown, and Black (OBB) pod blasting percentage (70-75) is only a guide to help with the digging decision. It is very helpful in preventing digging too early and usually results in good yields and adequate grades.

That said, we have seen good yields and grades with OBB percentages somewhat lower (65 percent) as long as the sample contained a lot of brown and some black pods.

In cases where conditions have favored a late split crop considering how "dark" the portion of the OBB sample is may provide better information than the exact percentage of OBB. When samples start showing 5 percent coal black pods, the risk of losing some of the heaviest and most valuable peanuts increases.

In terms of value, the black and brown pods are similar to first position bolls of cotton and the whites and yellows are similar to a late top crop. All contribute to yield, but just as it takes more bolls up top to equal one of the lower bolls, it takes more immature peanuts to equal the weight of a mature pod.

The difference between cotton and peanuts is that we often keep some of the lower boll lint while waiting on the top. Over-mature peanuts with weakened pegs never make it to the basket.

This late split crop may result in slightly lower grades (due to more immature pods), but yield always trumps grade when considering total crop value.

          More from Southeast Farm Press

Wet weather throws tough calls at 2013 Georgia cotton farmers

Research farm sets Sunbelt Expo apart from other shows

Smithfield Foods sale clears U.S. hurdle

Detailed monitoring of farm energy costs can improve bottom line