Fields are usually busy with harvest activities during the kick-off of the annual Georgia Peanut Tour, but that was not the case this year.
With only 18 percent of the state’s peanut acres planted by May 10, it’s a sure bet the bulk of the crop won’t be harvested until October, says John Beasley, University of Georgia Extension peanut agronomist.
“Based on what we’re seeing in our maturity profiles, 80-plus percent of our peanut crop will be harvested after Oct. 1,” said Beasley during the opening of this year’s tour in Valdosta.
“That is very unusual for us. It is typical for us to be 50-percent harvested by October, and hopefully be down to the last 10 to 15 percent as we reach late October because of the cool temperatures that slow down maturation.
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“We really need to get our crop harvested by the Oct. 20-25 time frame. It’ll be a late harvest for sure this year, and we’ll need some warmer morning temperatures as we get into the latter part of October and beginning of November,” he says.
As for the reasons for this late harvest, you can take your pick: delayed planting due to cool, wet weather; excessive rainfall throughout the growing season; and a high-than-normal amount of cool, cloudy days.
“We’re already into mid-September, and we’ve seen little harvest activity. In a normal year, we would be well into harvest by now. We’ve tried out some in late August and early September, so much so that some fields are being irrigated to help finish out the crop,” he says.
Problem began with planting delays
The problems began with planting delays caused by cool, wet weather in the spring, says Beasley.
“In the last several years, we’ve had research that clearly shows the positive yield response growers get from planting into the latter part of April and the first part of May. As we get into later May, we see our yields decline, especially as we get into June.”
More peanut acres than usual will be abandoned in Georgia this year, especially in low-lying areas of fields, he says.
“We’re seeing cultivars that normally take about 140 to 145 days to reach maturity taking about 150 to 155 days if they were planted in that April 15-25 time frame. When we go to fields that were planted around May 1-15, they’re taking only about 140 days.
“So it’s not unusual for a grower to have a field he planted on about April 20, to take 150 to 155 days. But if he planted another field about a week later, it’ll be ready to dig at about the same time. So we’ll need to continue to monitor maturity of this crop.”
Some locations, especially in the eastern part of the state, received double the amount of rainfall they normally receive for the May 1 through Aug. 31 timeframe, which accounts for the majority of the peanut production season, says Beasley. Other areas received just slightly above-normal rainfall.
“The two hottest days we reached were 93.4 on June 12 and 94.1 two months later. Only 31 days out of 123 were 90 degrees or above. The average maximum temperature for south Georgia is about 92 degrees.
“We had a lot of days below that. Last year, with a record peanut yield of 4,700 pounds per acre, we had 10 more days that were above 90. Cooler temperatures were ideal for blooms to convert to pegs. However, saturated soils prevented the plants from developing normally, and pegs were inhibited from the soil and developing in a timely manner.”
Behind last year
This time last year, Georgia’s weekly crop condition report showed that 75 percent of the state’s peanut crop was considered to be good to excellent. This year, 58 percent is rated as good to excellent.
“Georgia’s final peanut acreage for 2013 is estimated at 430,000 acres, the lowest since 1923.
“It has been a long time since we’ve planted so few acres. The yield prediction is 3,900 pounds per acre, not close to last year’s record-breaking average.”
But despite this year’s heavy rainfall, weed and disease control have been good, says Beasley.
“Weed control has been outstanding this year despite heavy rainfall. Our weed scientists have delivered to our county agents and growers the kinds of programs that reduce the threat of problem weeds. The biggest concern is the herbicide-resistant weeds, not only for peanuts but for all crop production. A lot of time, effort and funding have been spent to address these problems.
“Also, we’re not seeing the disease severity we thought we would because of excessive rainfall. The great thing about weed and disease control is that growers have exceptional tools for monitoring any problems that arise. With those programs and the chemistries available, our growers can do a fantastic job.”
A new wrinkle for 2013 has been a sharp increase in the level of tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) in farmers’ fields, says Beasley.
“Growers also saw the highest level of TSWV than they’ve seen in many years. There was an explosion of thrips populations in late May, and we expected that would show us a lot of tomato spotted wilt virus. This virus has not gone away, and it is incumbent upon us to continue monitoring the problem and do whatever we can to help growers prevent it from occurring in their fields. This is some of the worst virus we have seen in since 1997 or 1998.”
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